The holiday season is always a time of reflection and not only to look at what we have, but better yet, define what we would like to have in the future. Controlling the variables within our purview, working on the details to eliminate failure and looking at our attitude and perspective can change an outcome on and off the water.
It's always good to reflect on what went right the prior year. Past success can be mirrored in future opportunities. Success with the variables of time of year, bait selection and lake level can be used in the future to repeat that success. Failures on the water can actually teach as much or more than the successes do. Fishing deep when the fish were active shallow and fishing shallow when they are deep are great examples.
We often try to force the situation by getting the fish to bite on what we want and in the depth we want them in, but many times we do not look at the variables such as water color, time of year, water temperature and wind. The perfect cast with the perfect bait on the best line with the best rod and reel will not work if the fish are not there — you cannot catch a ghost.
I always say fishing mirrors life and the best approach is to fish free from encumbrances or preconceived ideas. Dock talk can also cause anglers to zig when they should have zagged. Listening too much to what others say may be neither productive nor correct. Life is like that too; listening to the wrong people at the right time can cause us to make bad decisions.
I work with young people all the time who want me to teach them how to catch fish. I can show them how to make a cast, but they have to have time on the water to make good choices while on it. Experience helps but a little success taking a gamble, making a choice or changing up from prior success can be huge on the water.
The same is true with life. I tell them all decisions should be made with three things: your head, your heart and your gut. Sometimes intuition is the most powerful tool. Not doing things the easy way, with others showing you spots or techniques, and instead learning for themselves with mentoring and instincts can carry a young person even further.
When I work with our young anglers, life and fishing fit together. For the most part, decisions on the water mirror decisions made off of it. Coaches who have success in sports find a blend between X’s and O’s and building a team attitude. Skills do play in the game, but I have seen the less skilled win as a result of attitude and drive.
The beauty of fishing is the fish do not care if you are big, muscular, can jump high or run fast. It is a location and technique-driven sport and having a positive mental focus can overcome making a wrong decision.
It’s about making adjustments and recognizing what the variables are telling us. Did the wind change? Did we have a front come through? Did the water temperature change? Just casting to the right object may not work, but casting to that object at the right time with all the considerations included can.
The best things young anglers can do to be better anglers is listen, spend time on the water and understand seasonal patterns. Step one is learning the tools of shallow, middle and deep water. This includes boat position, electronics and bait selection for each depth. No rule is sacred in fishing. They just guide starting places. Choosing the wrong place can be as telling as choosing the right one in the learning process.
From experience I can tell you that most decisions are wrong on the water, but adapting to those wrong decisions can turn the day around. If you are fishing shallow cover and not getting bit, maybe move a bit deeper or look at your electronics to find bait.
Bait will lead you to the fish more times than not. Try something new, different cast angles and even different baits. You will be amazed how much success you can have by getting out of a comfort zone.
Reflection on the life parts of the outdoors can be a mechanism to better grades, treating people with respect, and success. Outdoors challenges and life challenges mirror each other.