Like a time-lapse series of photographs, the sky shifted from a bright sun that narrows your eyes to a foreboding, dark sky that typically indicates you only have a few minutes before a strong downpour of rain and swift winds begin. The wind gusted, and I struggled with my ability to control the line and drift of the flies in the water column. I tried to compensate by adding force to my casts and making quicker movements when leading the fly. I could feel that I was out of sorts. Panic about how to handle the weather change started to creep into my mind. “Swing that back. Let’s make a quick adjustment,” said Domenick Swentosky, guide and author of the Troutbitten Blog.
“The wind is going to hinder us now. Let’s get an indicator on that can pivot the drift from the line to the water’s surface,” was his next instruction. “It looks like it will blow through fast, but we should adjust.” The rain drops started slowly, but the drops were large. Each drop made an impact like a small crater on the surface of the water. The tree limbs swayed and oak pollen pods dislodged from the branches and littered the water. Distraction from the rapid weather change had my brain in observation and wonder mode. Not Dom. He inventoried the conditions, adjusted the setup, and came up with a new strategy to capitalize on (not compensate for) the new constraints of the environment.
The weight of the indicator allowed my casts to punch through the wind and keep my accuracy. After some detailed instruction on how to manipulate my cast to get the indicator in the same seam as the flies (remembering to stay in my lane), I was back on the water. The rain was steady but not intense enough to push off of the water, and my focus went back to making good casts, getting good drifts, controlling my line, and watching the indicator.
Two drifts in, and there was a pause and pull on the indicator. I set the hook and felt the shake. Fish on. The feeling never gets old. I heard “Hey now!” over my shoulder and felt Dom’s excitement over hooking the fish as he walked to my side to help net the fish. The fish was strong, and I battled to land it. As I lifted the fish’s head and Dom scooped him into the net, I felt a sense of accomplishment and appreciation for the guidance I received. Just as quickly as the rain started, it subsided, and the wind stilled.
Circumstances and conditions change constantly. Often I can be paralyzed in thought about how to face the new challenges before me and wonder when I should stay the course or when I should make adjustments. My mindset and my skill sets can limit my reaction to change. In fly fishing, skills like casting, knot tying, and wading can impact your confidence in making a change and the time it takes to make the adjustment. A foundation of those skills helps you make modifications to leaders, flies, and positions to improve your likelihood of success. “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” Jimmy Dean, American Singer.
Being with a guide on the river, or in another aspect of life, helps to provide support for that foundation and the thought process of making the adjustments. French philosopher Denis Diderot stated, “There are things I can’t force. I must adjust. There are times when the greatest change needed is a change of my viewpoint.” The broad life experience and vast skill set of a guide can help us to adjust and succeed. If I was on the water by myself, I may have hesitated to modify my rig or change my setup. I may have become frustrated and used the weather as an excuse to leave the river or to blame for my lack of achievement. I may have gotten down on myself and thought I was incompetent when all I needed was a clear mind in the stormy weather and the willingness to try small adjustments based on the conditions.
Throughout the day, as the water depth, velocity, and weather changed, we changed with it. It was a great time, and I learned a tremendous amount. I push myself to constantly improve, and sometimes that pressure makes life less enjoyable. But of all the things I learned last week, I’m appreciating the encouragement to always look for adjustments and to know that you can achieve your goals with a willingness to change your approach. Whether you are looking to improve a relationship, improve your work performance, build a business, or grow in a hobby, minor adjustments can make a big difference in moving you ahead.