There was a time when I was a bad photographer and a bad angler.
I got to thinking about this the other day when my brother called to tell me that Leon Townsend had died. I hadn’t thought of him in years. Leon was the man that gave me my first job as a photographer, at the local newspaper in 1978 when I was seventeen years old. He was also the first, and only, person who ever fired me. I honestly didn’t learn much from my time there at The Register and Bee, but firing me was quite possibly the best thing anyone has ever done for me and I will always be grateful to Leon for that.
I had enough pride that being told I wasn’t up to the job stung. It motivated me. I realized that Leon was right. I wasn’t very good and it was on me to make myself better. I have been told many times that I have talent and I have often insisted that I do not. I realized early on, that I would have to work twice as hard as the talented people around me to succeed. What I have, what I learned, is not talent but tenacity. It has served me well. If you want to pay me a compliment, call me tenacious.
In time I became a good photographer and a good angler, and I did it in pretty much the same way. I won’t bore you with a chronology of my photographic career but I will offer you some insight on how I learned, and continue to learn, to fish.
Here’s how you become a badass angler.
Treat it like a job
I know, you already have a job, and a family, and the same twenty-four hours in a day as everyone else, but success only comes through sacrifice. You have to make the time. Many years ago, I considered going to guide school to become a better fisherman. I got on the phone with the fellow who ran the school and talked to him for over an hour. I tried to give him an accurate picture of where I was as an angler. At the end of the conversation he told me,
“I can take your money, but you already know what you need to know. You just need time on the water. Fish a hundred days next year and you’ll be a badass.”
The following year I fished closer to a hundred-fifty days and the change was remarkable. I landed several of the biggest trout of my life that year.
Check Your Ego
The number one thing that holds anglers back is ego. For that matter, ego is the number one thing that holds our sport back. The stereotype of the snobbish fly fisherman exists for a reason. Not only does it keep good folks from trying fly fishing, it keeps those of us in the sport from learning. Most fly fisherman spend so much energy trying to prove that they know what they’re doing that there is no energy left for learning. You can learn something from everyone. Ego precludes that.
Fish With Anglers Who Are Better Than You
Language scholars call this “finding an informant”. Find an angler that you get along with, who is better than you and willing to have you along. Find several and fish with them as much as possible. Make yourself useful. Bring beer, buy gas, offer to drive. Pay attention to everything they do. Talk about fishing and ask questions. Be humble. This is hands down the best way to rapidly improve your skills. I owe a great debt to the guys that helped me.
If you’re reading this post you’re likely on top of this one. Reading blogs, magazines and books is a great way to gather information, but it doesn’t stop there. Get involved in your local TU chapter or fly fishing club. Surround yourself with images of rivers and fish. Use a bulletin board or, like me, just pin stuff straight to the wall. My office always looks like some special branch of law enforcement on the case of some crime involving fish.
Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint. Be patient with yourself and stay positive. Beating yourself up over a missed fish or a blown cast or even the general feeling that you suck is counterproductive. Recognize your shortcomings, learn from your mistakes and celebrate your progress. Slow and steady wins the race.
Hire guides as teachers
When you hire a guide, think of them as your teacher. Don’t judge your day on the water by how many fish you catch but by how much you learned while catching them. Guides have dedicated their lives to fly fishing and they have a wealth of knowledge to share. Once they see that you are eager to learn, and not offended by constructive criticism, they are eager to teach.
If you can’t take a day to fish, you can almost always take an hour to cast on the lawn. Without the distraction of catching fish you can focus on technique. This is especially important when preparing for a big trip where you might be casting a new rod or fishing in tough conditions. Those days that seem better for flying a kite are great days to practice your casting.
Following these simple guidelines will yield remarkable results. Everyone has it in them to be a badass angler. It just takes time and tenacity. Stick to the program and one day, you’ll wake up a badass!Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com firstname.lastname@example.org Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!