Belief in my success has often meant the difference between achieving a goal and missing an opportunity. Those lessons have applied in work, school, sports, and fishing. Many anglers talk or write about confidence flies, flies that they fish frequently because they believe they catch fish consistently. When you look at the fly box, what do you grab and tie on the line? What are you willing to put in the water?

What am I willing to put out into life? That is what confidence means to me. What I know I can accomplish, what I have faith in, where I know I have people behind me, what makes me happy, and where I feel valuable. The answers to these questions are the things I can rely on when I’m faced with fear and uncertainty or I’m challenged to overcome a goal. Our trust and faith can carry us to extraordinary places and our fear can keep us stuck in place.  

Sometimes my confidence can become a crutch. I have developed habits that may hold me back from learning and exploration. For the past several years, an overwhelming percentage of the fish I have caught have been on four flies: the frenchie, the mop fly, the black jig streamer, and the pat’s rubber legs. Often I go to those flies first, sometimes I try something else at the beginning and then switch back to one of my confidence flies. I’m often reminded by my friend Mark of the clever t-shirt philosophy, “It’s not the fly, you suck.” 

In my experiences at work, I go through similar processes. I easily find the courage to try something new or look for an innovation. I stumble if success isn’t forthcoming with my new effort. Too quickly I can turn to old habits. It is hard for me to continue on a hard path when I am not rewarded with incremental wins. Building new habits is where promise meets movement. Holding on to promise is not easy. 

With writing my courage has peaks and valleys. I have committed to writing daily and I’ve pretty much kept that up. The more I practice I feel like I have to be improving. My mind tells me maybe that is a façade. I struggle with self-promotion and reaching out to others, so I feel like I am lacking feedback and that people aren’t naturally drawn to my writing. I don’t have confidence flies to fall back on my writing. The practice of writing and the discovery of what comes out each day is a reward. As Seth Godin says, “Step by step, page by page, interaction by interaction. As you start moving, you can’t help but improve, can’t help but incrementally find yourself getting back toward your north star.”

In the practice of fly fishing, tying flies has helped build a stronger foundation for decisions and strategies. Understanding the materials and how they work together and move in the water have helped me to expand my fly fishing knowledge. There are times when I want to follow a recipe or video instruction perfectly. Through mimicking others who are tremendously skilled, I also gain confidence. There are also moments when I don’t have the exact color or material to match the pattern exactly. I am gaining the ability to discern a suitable material substitute and to think through color combinations that can produce a functional and attractive fly.     

If I choose to fish many different flies or a single fly the next time I am out on the water, I do not want doubt and hesitation to enter my mind. Recently I have mixed in turbo midges, little black stoneflies, simple pheasant tails and caught fish. I am learning to find confidence in myself and not the flies. Hopefully the areas of my life where I let doubt in, I can let the practice and faith lead me towards my north star. 

Keep Mending…

2 Replies to “Do We Need Confidence Flies?”

  1. Hi Scott!
    Confidence, in most things in life, I think is very underrated, though it should be one of the highest virtues. Easier said than to gain. Like you said, setting little goals, to help you achieve more and more confidence over time is an excellent strategy. Just make sure those little goals are within reach to hopefully give you something to build off of.
    Now, as far as confidence flies, one good example for me is my Globug. It’s mostly a staple on my tandem rig even though it doesn’t catch a fish some days. Why? Because it serves two big purposes. One, yes, to catch of fish. And two, to act as an attractor towards my other flies on my tandem rig, which I “believe” it does better than catching fish. My fishing confidence goes way up when I have the Globug on my rig. Now, with that said, to keep things fresh and always trying to learn, I purposely don’t use it at times so I can try other flies in it’s place, like you said again, not to use it as a crutch.
    I believe confidence, can be taught to a degree, but most of the real inward confidence has to built from within, and some good luck along the way is always a big boost. I think parents are one of the biggest , if not THE biggest promoter or destroyer in self confidence. A parent’s action or reaction towards their child trying to reach goals has the biggest impact on that child to keep pushing forward through the struggles they encounter. So the support we all need to help build our confidence often started from childhood which should’ve helped shape our path or strategies in building confidence throughout all things in life. I’m not saying, it’s the parents fault, as parents, we play the biggest part in shaping our child’s character.
    I guess, I may be getting too deep, but one thing I can say with certainty, when you know you’re a confident person, it’s much easier to feel it and use it towards many aspects in life. That doesn’t mean it makes life any easier, because a lot of times over confidence can make you do or act out things that can humble you, but then that should be a lesson learned, ha! I guess we’re always learning and our confidence is probably always wavering, but hopefully more higher than lower, ha!
    Thanks, Scott for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Thanks Scott –
      Great thoughts as always! I always appreciate you sharing! I definitely try to inspire confidence in my kids. Sports can play a big part in that too. Sometimes I feel like with a good coach on a sports team, my kids have connected or listened even better. They don’t always hear what I’m trying to say in the way that I meant it. But I keep at it. And even in my own head I need to constantly build my self up. I also try to show examples of humility and support being humble and kind as strong virtues too. – Scott

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