I could not control my fly line, and I tried to pick up my fly to re-cast only to nearly hit myself right in the face. As I drifted in the kayak, trying to manage the paddle, my fly rod, and my patience proved to be a challenge. The wind and the momentum of each stroke of the paddle complicated every cast and every drift. It was more movement than wading or the skillful drift of a boat from a guide on a float trip. Seeing a darting panfish follow and strike the popper was pretty exciting, but I quickly realized that the hook was too large to hook any of the fish.
I realized that fishing from a kayak was a skill I did not currently possess. But that wasn’t the point of the trip. The goals of the trip were to visit with my sister at her new house at a nice lake in Virginia and to have some adventurous outdoor fun with my daughter and son. We were successful in achieving those goals, it was a great visit with my sister, and my kids had a great time kayaking. While driving home appreciating the time at my sister’s lake house and on the water in the kayaks, I was also struck by the thought that I needed to practice my casting.
For many years, every time I think or hear the word “practice” I think of the famous rant by Allen Iverson–“We talkin’ ‘bout practice…not a game…we talkin’ ‘bout practice”–one of the funniest and most awkward press conferences I can remember. The other mental attachments to practice I have are mostly related to my parents asking me to practice a musical instrument or for me as a parent trying to encourage my children to practice their sports drills or musical pursuits. Those attachments are generally not funny but a little dreadful.
But I’m realizing how important practice can be to expand my life. I need to practice writing to improve my blog and maybe lead me to write a book one day. I need to practice my casting to improve my fishing. Often those thoughts of what I can do to improve myself leave fairly quickly as I use my time for things other than practice. One of the great things about writing my blog is my commitment to being mindful and documenting how my mind and heart are working. Once the topic leaves a mark on my mind, my blog helps me follow the thread.
I started looking at the thread of practice by looking up some quotes on practice. I found some great quotes to start.
For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them. – Aristotle
Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation. – Ann Voskamp
An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory. – E. F. Schumaker
Skill comes from consistent and deliberate practice. – Shawn Allen
Clearly, repeating an action and fine tuning that action to seek improvements helps to build muscle memory and habits that can improve our performance of that action. But why is there a feeling of dread around the word practice? Maybe the pressure of performing and feeling judged as less than if the result does not meet expectation feels like disappointment?
Enjoyment of the action and seeing results from practice are critical to remaining consistent with training and practice. Wayne Gretzky said, “The only way a kid is going to practice is if it’s total fun for him…and it was for me.” To make casting practice fun for me, I need to make a game of it and to see the results. I also need to be accountable to others. How about being accountable to my blog readers? I have developed a great habit of consistency writing, so I will document my practice in my future blogs. I will practice casting once a week in my yard or at the nearby park and let everyone know how I am progressing. Also, when I am fishing, I will concentrate on loading the rod, repeating a straight motion with my casting stroke, and managing my line well. Concentrating on improving my technique each time I fish will also help my practice.
I went to fish the Gunpowder River this afternoon, and I decided to start my practice by concentrating on loading my rod and using a tuck cast for driving nymphs down in some of the deeper plunge pool areas I was fishing. I immediately noticed I was consistently getting longer drifts at better depths. I also had good success catching trout!
As usual, I replayed my fishing in my head as I drove home. I also thought about the idea of practice. It occurred to me that most of life is repeating actions looking to seek improvement. I try to become a better father, a better husband, better at work, and better at almost everything I do. Most of my life is practice! I need to get rid of the attachment of any dread to practice.
The last quote I found gave me inspiration for my practice in life. Amit Sood, a professor of medicine working at the Mayo Clinic said, “World over, the single most desirable trait in your partner, friend, parents, teacher, neighbor, colleague, or child is kindness. Kindness is the daily practice of compassion.” Now that is something I know I need to practice.