I take a deep breath, steady my feet, pull 15 feet of fly line from the reel, and mark the spot I want to cast toward. In a smooth motion, I lift the fly line and rapidly move into the backcast. The line straightens behind me, and then I accelerate to a stop. The line tightly loops above my head and extends forward toward my target, rolling out like a carpet. The fly lands softly, but not as softly as I wanted. I whisper “it’s ok.” The fly floats with the current toward the expected holding spot of the trout I am targeting. I can’t tell if I’m holding my breath, but I am feeling my chest tighten with excitement. A shadow moves and turns into a gold and brown submarine rising from the depths. Now I know I’m holding my breath. The trout rises to the fly, and I’m ready! Then it bumps the fly with its snout and retreats back to its hiding spot. Oh, no! What went wrong? That has happened to me more times than I can count.
When you are interacting with any other living creature, anything can happen. The best preparation can lead to the anticipated result, or you can be surprised and back to the drawing board. Whether you have an interaction at work, a conversation with a loved one, playing with a pet, or fly fishing, the other party has a say in how it goes. Sometimes we trick ourselves into thinking that we have control or we have the “perfect approach” to guarantee our desired result. There are no guarantees in life.
On the Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast this week, Tom Rosenbauer, a legendary fly angler, stated that when he started fly fishing it took him two to three years to catch a trout. Of course, he was young and inexperienced, but he confirmed to this day he still gets skunked.
In a few different aspects of my life I have experienced either hearing or thinking, “How many times are we going to talk about this?” Feeling unheard or thwarted in our needs is a difficult space to manage. But the thought that now comes back to my mind in response is, “As long as I care enough about working through the issue, about opening my mind to see what I can’t see at the moment, and I am committed to improving my connection with that person, then as many times as it takes.”
This is hard to do. How many times have we heard that the definition of insanity, attributed to Albert Einstein, “is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”? By that definition, many fly anglers may qualify as insane. I normally love Albert Einstein’s quotes, but that one I struggle with. That definition is also counter to the Japanese proverb, “Fall seven times and stand up eight.” Thomas Edison stated, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Even more of Einstein’s own words challenge that definition, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” To me, these quotes inspire me to persevere. Perseverance is a quality that drives success and growth. Giving up or walking away allows something to be reinvented, but not worked through.
I often have fly fishing conversations with my friend Mark that begin with frustration, the venting of what went wrong, what we need to improve upon, or what we don’t know enough about. The conversations evolve into finding subtle things to change, to think about, to move forward, and approach the challenge. The conversations help to release the frustration, but they don’t linger too long in wallowing. They build knowledge and confidence from seeing the possibilities of the little steps to take to improve and the commitment to persevere.
I haven’t always been able to hang in there when things are hard. I haven’t always believed in myself enough to carry on. I’m learning that skill and mindset, and it takes work. Walter Elliott, Scottish Politician, stated, “Perseverance is not a long race. It’s many short races one after the other.” When things are hard and the road seems very long, my ability to stay the course waivers. Seeing that we can have moments of rest and then get back to it helps me stay committed.
The casts we make may not always catch a fish, but they are building us up. There are many things that can go wrong, the fly can drag, our cast can be errant, and the leader may not turn over, but the next one may be right on. The stacking of experience helps us observe more, develop muscle memory, change our perspectives, listen with an open mind, and grow.
- Keep going
- Keep trying
- Keep observing
- Keep talking
- Keep listening
- Keep open minded
- Persevere and keep mending.