There is no way to say this without sounding like an out-sized ass, so I’ll just put it out there: I haven’t been skunked on a trout fishing trip for many, many years. I promise you I’m not mentioning this in order to brag – I like to think I have a little more tact than that. I’m bringing it up because today I went trout fishing and I came very, very close to breaking that streak. The whole thing was a little bit of an ordeal for separate reasons – I jacked up a couple leg muscles a week ago and without thinking about it, I then opted to tackle the most difficult river in terms of wading that I personally know of. Ill advised, to be sure.
Anyway, fishing – especially the hyper-specific sort often practiced by species specialists – can be pretty exhausting. The rewards are numerous and go beyond a handful of fish. Becoming good enough at tricking a specific species of fish in a consistent manner is a reward on its own. We’re speaking here of mastery of a craft. The confidence of that mastery can creep in and grow until it evolves into something more dubious and problematic: ego.
One of the things I’ve noted in my own pursuit of trout is that my expectations have shifted from “boy I hope I catch a few fish” into “I will catch several fish today.” So routine was that expectation (and result) that I would slip into actual agitation on slow days. Now, we’re still talking about fishing, here – to be agitated while fishing defeats the purpose. Recreational fishing is nothing if not a joyously relaxing activity. So today I find myself out on a gorgeous river doing the things I have done for years on end in the pursuit of trout and nothing is happening. In addition to the now very real pain in my leg, I’m starting to get really agitated. “What the hell is wrong with these fish,” I mutter to myself, over and over again. “This always works!” But it wasn’t working, and in the process of trying to make it work, I was really sticking my neck out, as it were. Finally, after wading across some impossibly treacherous flat, slippery bedrock, I dropped a tandem nymph rig into a deep, churning eddy and came out with a chunky rainbow trout.
Reality set in as I knelt over to release the fish – both of my quads locked up tighter than a tick on a dog and I had to take 10 minutes to first, rest and second, figure out how the hell I was going to get back across the river. Long story short, I did, by making a very long bush-whack back to a suitable spot.
So what’s the point of this mostly embarrassing story? Pretty simple: I was driven to this series of bad (and painful) decisions entirely by ego. I was so flabbergasted by the fact that I hadn’t caught a trout because I ALWAYS catch trout, that I was unable to see the forest for the trees, as it were. Sure, I caught a fish, but I also clouded my own day with a combination of fanaticism, immodest expectations and general negativity. Simply put: letting your ego get the better of you when you’re trying to have fun while fishing isn’t always a recipe for failure and unhappiness, but it sure as hell isn’t the best way to proceed.
So next time you’re out trying to catch fish and things just aren’t going well, take a step back, close your eyes and speak the mantra to yourself “cool it, dude – fishing is rad” and get back to it, level headed and a little wiser.