Have you ever been asked this question? Replace “fishing” with any word/hobby of your choice for a similar dilemma. Normally when you are asked this question it is due to frustration or concern from someone who is hoping or relying on you to send some attention their way or help with something you may have neglected. The question is often accompanied by an eye roll or even a dagger-eyed stare. Or you can ask it of yourself, if you are working toward a goal or prone to moderate levels of obsession.
Malcolm Gladwell popularized the 10,000-hour rule in his book Outliers. He asserts that once someone has put in 10,000 hours of practice at an activity, they develop mastery of the craft. While it is a nice round number that is easy to remember, most researchers recognize this is an oversimplification but there is something to repetition and persistence.
I’ve written about the importance of practice and the benefits I gained in fishing for five consecutive days. My interactions with Guides also have shown me that time on the water, with a thoughtful approach, produces tremendous learning and expertise. Exposure to many different conditions and scenarios builds a mental library and sharpens muscle memory and instinct. Teaching others also allows a guide to see issues arise with others and work to find the words and actions to explain corrections. I imagine this is helpful in breaking your own patterns when you can see the results of others.
Last week fishing in the Catskills, I fished for 3-4 hours a day for five straight days. As someone who usually fishes once a week for 3-4 hours, this concentration of time fishing helped me improve in many ways. Similarly, to a full day fishing with a guide, I improved in physical motions of casting, presentation, and problem solving.
I also realized that time alone doesn’t help growth. Seeking improvement requires experiment through trial and error. Reflection and evaluation after each time on the water helped me to mentally record the lessons and set up a strategy to apply to my next time out.
So how much fishing is enough? If your time fishing or participating in another hobby is purely for relaxation, then you should go as often as you need to let off some steam. But if you are trying to grow, learn and improve, there needs to be dedicated time. With family and work commitments, we can’t all fish five days a week, but my recommendation is to try to have multiple sessions per week. I’m not convinced that as purely a weekend warrior I can gain enough practice to significantly improve.
Fly fishing is almost always on my mind. Thinking alone hasn’t always produced growth, in fact sometimes overthinking has stressed me out. However, writing down my thoughts and developing conscious strategies to employ once a week has proved valuable. After my week in the Catskills, my instinct is putting together windows of more frequently fishing combined with taking more diligent records is the way to go.
Working toward a goal requires commitment and intention, even with hobbies. Get out and fish a couple times per week and make some time to write down your observations. In a short time, you will see improved results!