As anglers we take a set of preconceived notions onto the water regarding or quarry. Largemouth prefer structure, they feed most heavily at dusk and dawn, they’ll be spooked or downright scared away by noise from above, and above all else your presentation must appear genuine.
And as people we bring a similar set of previously held beliefs into the world: that people are good, that they’re being honest with us, that they wish the best not only for themselves but for all of us as a community.
And if you stick around for longer than about three hours, either on the water or in general, those theories will be seriously tested. There will be all sorts of fishing structure that is seemingly absolutely devoid of fish. The best presentation and the most realistic looking bait will be completely unmolested by anything living whatsoever, and days that should be, from everything we know about the water, completely fish-filled will be what amounts to casting practice on the water for hours on end. And off the water, if you haven’t been lied to, taken advantage of or insulted, you’re living in some kind of bubble I’ve never been in.
But as anglers we don’t change those beliefs that we’ve come to hold true. We don’t give up on something we’ve learned because it failed to prove accurate on any given day, and we don’t relent in our pursuit.
And that approach has and continues to inspire me in life every day. An absence of fish, or honesty, or kindness in any given endeavor, on the water or off, has not deterred me from holding onto these principle truths that I’ve come to have faith in.
An absence of fish, or good faith, shouldn’t shake our belief in the things we’ve come to understand when we’re at our most trusting, when the fishing, and life, is at its best.
There will be long stretches without fish and there will be hardships in life that will test our every ounce of resolve, if they don’t completely break us altogether.
But neither should compromise or weaken our belief in the things we’ve come to hold true and understand when life’s at its best… When we’re beloved by all or can’t keep a lure from getting crushed.
Fishing has taught me that my experience on any given day, and especially on the worst ones, shouldn’t be a model to look back on or put faith in. “Don’t look to the past unless you can build on it,” a very wise woman told me once. And in fishing and in life, that’s as true as anything else you’ll read, I can promise you that.
We become great anglers, and trusting, giving people, by building on what we’ve come to understand through knowledge that has proven itself in experience. And for every fishless day or survived hardship, whether we realize it or not, that strength, skill and resolve is only deepened as long as it fails to weaken our faith.
That’s what I’ve learned from years on the water, and what I hold onto every day.