We have a new family member. He is a bit exuberant. On occasion he bites us and jumps on us. Whenever someone new is introduced to our space, he goes a little crazy. I keep telling myself he needs training (which he is getting) and I need patience. The combination of discipline and patience can transform a rambunctious dog into a loving companion. It can also create a level of significant change in virtually any endeavor we undertake.
This year, by writing a few hundred words each night over 200 nights, I was able to write an 81,000-word novel. I maintained discipline and patience. With fishing, progress and learning is harder to measure. Time on the water and time on the vise produce lessons learned incrementally, but where do they go and what do they build?
Do I catch more fish than I used to? Maybe. Do I get skunked fewer times? Yes. Can I tie on flies with secure knots faster? Probably. Lord Kelvin, the British Mathematician, stated, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” Measurements and metrics are embedded in our schools, economies, workplaces, well almost everywhere we look. But they’re not easy to find on the river.
Anglers count fish caught and fish hooked but not landed and they measure the length or weight of fish. These measurements are mainly for bragging and competition. But performance? Luck or good circumstances are often offered up as the reasons for catching the fish of a lifetime. Lots of work goes into finding and catching large fish or many fish or picky fish, but how can you tell how you’re improving as an angler?
I’ve focused on efficiency improvements first. I think I tie strong knots faster. Practice tying leaders helped the most. I sat watching television and constructed multiple leaders with around 5-6 knots (clinch and blood knots) each. Using a mono rig and tying on droppers using the triple surgeon’s knot has helped build the muscle memory and dexterity to work with tippet.
Casting practice was harder for me to maintain discipline and patience. I had a hard time not feeling foolish casting to a hula hoop in my front yard as neighbors drove by. Only a few slowed down with confused looks and awkward smiles on their faces but it was enough to feel like a spectacle. Time with guides has been very helpful with my casting. In addition, time focused on dry fly fishing has helped me to keep my movements crisp and repeated with increased precision.
Getting from the car to the water can be a time sink. To expedite the process, I have organized my gear and improved with putting on waders and boots, setting up rods and reels, and managing my flies. When I was first fishing there were moments when a time limit of one hour would only leave me about 20 minutes of fishing. Now I can park and be headed to the stream in ten minutes or less.
Maintaining good drifts and landing hooked fish also take practice and the ability to keep myself calm and under control. Manipulating line in each hand with a steady pace, maneuvering the rod to keep good angles and contact with the flies through the line takes repeated movements to improve fishing performance. But it’s more of a feeling than a measurement.
When it comes to fly fishing, time seems to be the biggest metric for me. Visualizing the cast and thinking through the strategy keeps fishing in my mind and is fun and creative. But the movement of my body with the hands, arms, feet and torso with extensions of the fly rod and line are what connects to fish. It takes time on the water. Time is the ultimate metric for fishing, and for life. Fish caught, whether it’s size or numbers, can create stories and memories but it’s the time spent that allows the moments and the improvement. Within the time we invest, discipline and patience bring the repetition of movement and the learning mindset to foster the growth.
Here’s to wishing you patience and discipline and the time to grow and keep mending in 2023.