Simplicity can pay big dividends in Fishing and Investing

February 12, 2017  |  

Simplicity can pay big dividends in Fishing and Investing


Key Takeaways

  • Whether fishing or investing, don’t get seduced by fancy, but unnecessary new products on the market.
  • Complexity is a formidable enemy for both the fly fisher and the investor.
  • Reducing complexity and cost is the key to success in both endeavors.


There are a bewildering number of choices when you select a mutual fund. According to the Investment Company Institute, there are over 15,000 mutual funds in the United States and there are at least as many different fly patterns available for fishers to consider.

As many of you know, fly patterns are the instructions required to create the fly. These patterns specify hook sizes and types, the materials and colors to be used, as well as the sequence to be followed and the assembly methods. When it comes to fly patterns, there are an infinite variety of combinations to consider and it can be overwhelming even for experienced anglers.

At The Fly Fishing Show last weekend, I heard an excellent presentation by Landon Mayer, a guide from Colorado and one of the most recognized authorities in our sport. One of the things Mayer talked about was the bewildering number of fly patterns available and the importance of distilling those choices into a dozen or so patterns that become your GO-TO patterns. The interesting thing about the exploding number of patterns is that they seem to have originated from the marketing departments of fly fishing equipment manufacturers—and it’s hard to prove that they catch more fish than the traditional patterns. For example, you can see this list of patterns by Umpqua here.

Do we really need this much equipment and so-called innovation to enjoy the time-honored sport of fly fishing? The answer in my experience is no. In theory, it’s a pretty simple past-time. I often use patterns that are over 400 years old and they still work as well today as they did when first introduced. But, that’s not what fly fishing companies and their marketing teams can afford you to believe.

Guides and other fishing industry professionals, however, create their own patterns for their purposes. Guides do this partly for branding purposes (it’s cool to have a client catch a trout on a fly that you originated and tied). It creates a memorable experience for the guide’s client.

Fly shops also create their own patterns for similar reasons.

That said, one of my favorite past times is sitting at my fly tying desk and experimenting with new tying materials and patterns. Admittedly, this activity is more of a creative outlet than it is a necessity. I probably already have all of the flies I’ll ever need.

In my experience, you don’t need the latest fly pattern to catch trout. The reality of the situation is that a fisherman with age old patterns can achieve the same results as a fisherman with a large variety of new patterns—and you don’t need to incur the additional expense. For more on this topic, see my posts about Simplicity and Not Being a Page 29 Guy.

Solid results, low costs

Achieving strong, consistent results while keeping your costs low is something that translates well into investments. If you use too many funds, chances are there’s an overlap in capabilities. If you use more flies, chances are one fly does exactly as good a job as the next fly and maybe a little more cheaply. It turns out that the old fly patterns tend to be relatively inexpensive to create. They require only two or three materials and these materials are generally simple and inexpensive. The newer patterns tend to have specialized materials that are marketed by fly shops and fly tying companies in order to move product. The same thing is true with investments. New investment products are generated not because investors are clamoring for them, but because investment companies need to sell more products and they sense there is a marketing opportunity.

One thing I’ve learned after all these years on the river is that simpler is usually better. A simplified, low-cost fly box with a small number of Go-To patterns can take you far in angling. In the same way, a simplified portfolio that is low in cost and evidence-based is the best solution for most investors.


Complexity is a formidable enemy for both the fly fisher and the investor. Recognizing and reducing complexity is the key to success in both endeavors. As Leonardo da Vinci famously said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” I have to agree.

If you or someone close to you has concerns about what’s in their portfolio or their tackle box, I’m happy to discuss either topic with you at any time.


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About Chas Boinske

Charles P. Boinske, CFA, is a 30 year investment management veteran overseeing the strategic direction and portfolio management process for Independence Advisors, LLC. Have a question for Charles? CLICK HERE TO ASK CHARLES
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