Friday morning was one of those mornings where I was trying to get a long list of things done in a short period of time. Checklist mode. I woke up around 5:20 and I tried to maximize each minute until 1 p.m. when I was going to try and take the afternoon off to go fishing. I haven’t fished much in the last three weeks, and I missed it. I had successfully navigated the back and forth for getting kids to school, walking the dog, and starting on my work checklist. Then I got derailed.
I had a morning meeting that I was anticipating being a collaborative conversation, and it turned out to be a one-sided monologue. I said less than 20 words in a call that ended up being 45 minutes instead of the scheduled 30 minutes. I couldn’t stay engaged after the first 15 minutes or so and checked out, instead of interjecting and trying to add myself to the space. I let it go and it went along as a disconnected and annoyed spectator.
For the next few hours, I slogged through my checklist. I struggled to be efficient with my work, and I felt my frustration growing. My wife could hear the angst in my voice as she worked at her desk in the next room. Walking to get some coffee, she caught my attention, and she gave me the “I know something is wrong and please tell me” look. I shook my head, like a pitcher wanting a different call from the catcher. Then she tilted her head and smiled, “Scott?”.
When I feel angry and judgmental, it’s hard for me to talk. I don’t want to sound like a whiny jerk, so I try to settle myself to stay responsible for my word choices and judgements. As I took off my headphones and explained my view of my experience, I felt my frustration growing with each word. I was spiraling. My wife listened and empathized with me and then she said “You need to go fishing. It’s important you get that time.” I felt lighter immediately.
Once I got enough of my checklist done to not bottleneck anyone else, I went out to the garage and got my gear together. The ritual of checking my fly boxes, gear bag, waders, boots, rods, and reels is satisfying to me. I’m not a particularly neat person, but I like putting each of my fishing items in a specific place in the back of the SUV. Similarly, once I get to the river, putting on my waders and lacing up the wading boots builds anticipation of my time on the river.
The drive is also a nice way to reset my checklist brain and be ready for the time on the river. Typically, I will look for a fly-fishing podcast to get my brain into fishing mode on my drive to a river. Friday, I listened to the latest Troutbitten podcast. It was an excellent episode on indicator nymphing with elements of tightline contact. I was getting tuned into river mode.
Trying a new access point and a new reach is part of the fun. I wasn’t sure of the best way to access the stream from this new parking area, and I ended up picking a spot that was a little too steep. I slid down the bank with an ungraceful splash into the water. I kept my balance and chuckled to myself, thinking of the scene from Romancing the Stone, where Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner slide through the mud and crash in a heap at the bottom of the slope.
After a few casts, I was welcomed to the river by a pair of bald eagles flying overhead. I went through different rigs and used some of the tips I heard on the podcast to reinforce some of my nymphing techniques. Feeling the cold water compress my waders around my legs and the rhythm of my arms casting centered my body and cleared my mind.
Over the next few hours, I only landed one fish, but I hooked and lost four others. Always something to learn. I hooked several fish that immediately swam downstream of me in fast water, and I lost each of them. One was a larger fish that threw the hook in a spectacular leap out of the water. I was learning and clearing my mind with each minute. I explored a new reach with some great water and learned about holding areas for some larger fish that I can revisit another day. I built upon my mental index of fishing knowledge while settling my mind and my emotions.
I was reminded of the importance of staying grounded in my feet and being an active participant in my life. My frustration grows when I feel powerless or without a voice. Expecting people or the world to read me, like my wife can, puts a lot on others that I should be responsible for. Fishing through my frustration helped me get back to me and my weekend turned out to be shaped by a positive mindset. I didn’t let my frustration continue to grow. I’m grateful for my wife always asking me to talk and for seeing how sometimes I just need to go fishing.
4 Replies to “How Fly-Fishing Helps Me Get through Frustration”
This really resonated with me today, I had a week of extreme frustration as well and today make the conscience decision to go do something to break the mental hamster wheel.
It’s important to take those mental breaks!
Beneath all that you wrote, I see a huge commitment to wanting to FEEL life, to wanting to SHOW UP for yourself. The frustration wouldn’t happen if that wasn’t present, and you wouldn’t feel so ‘left out’ if you didn’t want to be included.
I see through your eyes, the fishing helps you connect with life because you DO actually take space, nature makes it easy for you to step towards it, the fish are all swimming but you’re throwing your line. As you write, I imagine you fishing, and how it’s an easier space to engage in because the invitation comes with the ‘joy’ and the ‘awe’ you have for it.
Many people never find a way to bridge the gap you describe. How lucky you are to have found a place with nature and the fish … and the flies …
Thanks Sam! The river is my space to regain connection to myself. It is a blessing to have a that opportunity.