A Bad Day of Fishing Still Beats a Good Day at Work!
Fishing is supposed to be a test of patience. We’ve all been told so when we were young. “You have to be patient!” So many of us grow up believing that fishing is not a question of what bait we are using, the time of day that we are fishing or even the time of year that we are trying to catch fish. It is simply a matter of patience. If we can wait long enough, the fish will bite.
As we grew up and continued the sport we discovered that there were a few things we could do to increase our chances after all. This revelation most likely occurred once we were old enough to hit the local fishing holes with friends as opposed to when an adult could fit the trip into their busy schedule. First of all, we discovered that fish are more active on some days than others. We also learned that the seasons have something to do with how often fish feed and finally, we learned that there are different depths that fish feed at and we can take advantage of all of these things with a little thought and planning.
As we grew older still, we begin to increase our catches and our success rates and begin targeting specific fish. We begin to see that we could avoid bottom feeders most of the time simply by keeping our baits off of the bottom. We began understanding that a knowledge of spawning behavior and fall fish activity could make it much easier to catch the fish that we sought as opposed to whatever species happened to be in the area.
Today, we have cable television shows that are dedicated to hunting and fishing and it is easy to forget the simple truth of life. Sometimes the fish just won’t bite. We are led to believe that if you are not catching fish in any body of water, at any given point in time, and under any circumstances, you must not be doing something right. Or perhaps you haven’t spent enough money on your arsenal of fishing gear and you simply don’t have that magic bait that is needed.
This is kind of the same argument as when you were a child, only in reverse. Instead of lacking patience, you now lack knowledge, technique or tackle. The end result is that you can sometimes go home feeling defeated, beaten, or incompetent. We often forget that amid all of the science and technology that is available today, from fish behavior to electronic fish finders, there is a third factor in the mix. The most important factor of all, that none of the other two will ever be able to overcome. There is nature.
Unless we resort to throwing a net, we rely on fish to want to bite our baits in order to catch them. This is the weak link in the chain of fishing. We see on television that if we try hard enough we can ‘trigger’ a strike, or we read in magazine articles that with the right color of lure, fished at the right depth and given just the right amount of action, we can get a wild animal to want to eat a piece of rubber. While I have no doubt that this is probably true in certain circumstances I also suspect that part of this may be wishful thinking. Our human instinct is to tell ourselves that we have more control over our lives than we actually do, so it only seems natural that we would include fishing in that illusion.
Often we, as anglers, think that we know exactly what the fish want because we just had a great day on that same water, or because we have finally built up enough knowledge to beat the fish at their own game. This mindset often leads to frustration when we actually try to put these plans into action and everything is as it should be except for, well, the fish. For some inexpiable reason, they didn’t watch the same show or read the same article that we did and they don’t know that they’re doing it all wrong!
The first thing that we have to keep in mind is that fishing shows understand that if they don’t show someone catching fish, nobody is going to watch. Think about your average day on the water. Not the spring spawn or the occasional day when you knock them dead, but the average day when you’re grateful for two or three catches. Would you watch a 6 or an 8-hour show to watch some guy pour through every fly or lure that he owns in order to catch 3 fish? Of course not. So the television folks not only have the luxury of choosing a state and location where their odds are higher but they also have the benefit of taking 4 days of hard fishing and compressing it into a 30-minute show for our enjoyment.
These shows are fine for what they are and I enjoy watching them myself, but for most of us it is not reality and it doesn’t mean that we are not as smart as the professionals or not as prepared. It simply means that you and I live in the real world where fishing is still fishing. It is our responsibility to ourselves and our families to have reasonable expectations when it comes to our sport and our abilities to catch fish. We must maintain our expectations and stay focused on the best aspects of the sport. Who we are with, the time spent in the outdoors and the more intangible benefits that we all know so well.
A friend and I took another co-worker fishing one day who admitted that he didn’t really like the sport. When asked why he said, “Because I never catch anything.” So, with that in mind and confident that we could convert him to a past time that we both love, we took him to a private farm pond where he proceeded to catch fish after fish. After about 2 hours, confident that we had achieved our goal in showing him how much fun fishing can be we asked him how he liked it. His response was “I’m ready to go whenever you are”!
You see, our friend didn’t dislike fishing because he didn’t catch enough fish, although that is what he believed. He didn’t like fishing for all the same reasons that most of us love it. The outdoors, the small obstacles that you attempt to overcome to be successful and the uncertainty (or potential) that every day brings. The like or dislike truly has little to do with the fish themselves.
It is just as important to admit those days of defeat as it is to brag about the days of success but even the days of getting skunked are not losses. They are days spent doing what we all wish that we could do every day and hopefully days that we will remember for other reason. The old saying that ‘a bad day of fishing beats a good day at work’ is clever and often repeated but it is important that we recognize why this is so. It’s the time we spend with friends and loved ones in an environment that we cherish, not our hook-up rate.