Words by Noob Spearo's Isaac 'Shrek' Daly
After interviewing more than 100 spearos I've picked up some common threads for improving your spearfishing skills without having to wait 15 years.
- Spend lots of time in the water
- Ask good questions at the right time to the right people
- Regularly enter competitions
- Dive with different folk in different places in different conditions
Time in the water (and an experimental mindset)
“To start shooting better fish it's all just time in the water” said every skilled spearo ever. Beyond cliche, but as always, 100% true.
Listening to podcasts, watching videos and reading books will help you improve your knowledge BUT…You need to get in the water and apply it. If you don't use the knowledge, you lose it.
For example; You listen to the Chris Coates interview and learn all about how to use noise to arouse a fish’s curiosity. You have some ideas and now it's time to experiment. You head out to an area where you last had some easily spooked reef fish and setup. Laying on the surface you breathe-up and think about what you'll do once you hit the bottom 14 meters below.
30 seconds later, you gently touch down and…. there's no fish here bro.
Two hours later in a different location when you've forgotten your noise experiment, you touch down and see your target. As your eyes paint the fish, the fish starts to head off...as usual. At this point, it's time to try the experiment. You make the noise you suspect will make the fish curious but it sounds more like the mating call of a Dugong. The fish is gone.
Takeaways: the noise could be wrong for this species OR this species doesn't like noise at all OR you needed cover to arouse the fishes curiosity.
It’s time for more experimentation and you only have so many opportunities a day. This is why time in the water is crucial. You have to experiment, observe and learn continuously. Every species is different, their body language offers us clues but only time watching, observing and learning how to hunt them will yield you results.
Asking good questions
When you head into your local spearfishing club, you want to talk to the veterans. Prepare some questions based on the species and scenarios you've been in recently and choose a good person to ask. If you ask specific questions you will often get better answers because the veterans don't like to spoon-feed. They want to know that you are doing the work to learn yourself before they hand out their hard-won advice. Also, if you don't quite understand their answer, ask a follow up question.
Finally, when you get out for a spear and experiment with their advice, share your victories with them and be prepared to help the next generation of divers yourself.
In competitions, you will find lots of really good spearos. To do well in competitions you must shoot multiple species. To do this you need a strong strategy. This forces you to develop skills and learn fast. Every competition you enter will be an experiment and it's after the competition finishes that you will get the best answers and tips from veterans. Rob Harrison (successful kiwi comp diver) gets the best advice when a few beers are well underway and the prize-giving is complete.
With competition strategizing, you will need to plan your day around the tides, species and other competitors movements. The compressed time window also adds spice to the mix and culminates in a very good environment for improving. While competitions aren't for everyone, I think occasionally they can be a great idea for improving your skills and networking with spearos.
Diving different places with different people in different conditions will also get you out of your comfort zone and that's a good thing. Every experienced diver does something a little different that you can learn from. Diving with a good guide can also give you access to decades of knowledge and experience that will help you get better results.
Many spearos you meet will have an unconscious competence. Basically, they don't know what they know. Their habits and movements that yield results are often unconscious and they can't explain why they do certain things. Others (like Ian Puckeridge), won't share a lot of the things they know unless you are part of their close family and friends and I can understand it. You can still improve though by slowly implementing new ideas and experimenting.
Above all of this though, have fun.