Checking Your Attitude

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Jeff Hickman Launches One Photo by Louis Cahill

If you read the comments on our posts you’ll occasionally see the name Tom Cahill. That’s my big Brother.

Tom lives in Virginia. Too far away for us to fish together often but too close to have a good excuse.

He is an avid fisherman and a talented photographer. He and I have much in common. Our conversations may start off on motorcycles or politics but they usually end on fishing. I have often said that we are brothers, separated by a common hobby. Like brothers who marry sisters, Tom fell in love with bass and I with trout. I walked off up some mountain stream and he sped off at seventy mph across the lake.

The other day Tom left this comment to a post on G&G. It left me wondering why I’m the one with the fishing blog.


“Of all the cash we spend to catch a fish the biggest element is free. Years ago on one of those frustrating days my friend Rodney put it quite simply. Just as I was about to cast he asked ‘Are you going to catch one this cast?’ I responded with ‘Probably not!’ Rodney: ‘Then why don’t you just stand there until you are.”

“Now if you see me on the deck of my bass boat you may see me checking my line, checking my knot or checking my drag, but if I look like I’m just standing there staring a hole in the water, I’m checking my attitude.”


The Cahill Boys Photo Dan Flynn

That’s Tom all over. Contemplative in the face of adversity. A talented golfer and all around athlete, I remember watching him stand silently at the tee box. In a world of his own, visualizing his swing, reasoning through every detail. When the swing came it was perfection. The ball flying and fading exactly as it was told. I’ve not known a lot of guys who could do that, certainly not me. Tom is defined by his sheer force of will.

That attitude check came in handy the other day while I was fishing for steelhead on the Deschutes in Oregon. I’ve been spey casting for about a year now. I’m lucky to have learned from some of the best guys in the sport. I am largely a self taught fisherman and struggled for years with bad casting habits reinforced by ignorance. It’s nice to learn spey casting the right way first.

The casting is coming along well but once in a while a cast will break for no apparent reason and my line will pile up like spaghetti on the water. My natural reaction is for my Irish to come out. Pissed at myself I will tense up and flail a few more casts. Not a good approach. Spey casting is all about slow and smooth.

This time I remembered my Brother’s words. I stopped and stared at the deep green water, the amber hills and dusty blue sky. I watched the swallows swoop and dive like the Blue Angels, the water erupting like machine gun fire as they picked Blue Winged Olives off the surface. I took a few deep breaths and with a new attitude and my Brother’s hand on my shoulder, launched a perfect cast.

Why in the hell don’t I fish with him more?

A Less Recent Outing Photo Bill Cahill, I Think

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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9 thoughts on “Checking Your Attitude

  1. Oh boy, yes. Taking a second to calm it and once again find that intergalactic oneness is absolutely key. Especially on a quickly moving drift boat, with lots of thorny overhang under which the biggest trouts live, and a guide who takes pleasure in dishing out the shit when you go hunting for squirrels with your streamers.

  2. About 30 years ago my cousin gave me a book titled, ”How to find fish and make them strike’ by Joseph Bates. It showed photographs of almost every part of a stream and lake and showed, through fish icons, where the fish will be, whether they are holding or migrating, and this book changed both my ability to catch fish and my attitude on the water. I memorized all the pictures and fish locations on them, and for many years the book was mandatory fishing gear; I have since given it away to another fishing hopeful.

    Now when I am on the water, I know where the fish ‘should be’ and the first cast is the most important one (especially with larger lures). Sometimes, when I am fishing new water, I find myself being like the kid in a room filled with hay, throwing it up in the air and looking under it and thinking, “with all this hay there has to be a horse here somewhere”.

    I do find myself standing there staring at the water, especially streams, dissecting it trying to figure out where the ‘big boy’ is. My cousin has since moved to Texas and Im in New York so our fishing days together are over; but every time I come upon a new stream my cousin comes to mind along with all the days we spent together as kids and young adults, prospecting for the next great fishing spot.

  3. Words to live by, for sure.

    Ever since the death of my fly fishing guide son, Anthony, a little over a year ago now — I have really tried to focus more out on the river. I watch, listen and taken in what’s happening on the river before I wade in. And more importantly, I slow it down – watch my cast, be more conscientious of what I’m doing and not just be on ‘Auto-cast’– and I try to take in my surroundings. I try to capture with all my senses what I’m feeling and what I’m experiencing so I can better appreciate and enjoy my limited, quality time on the river. And also so I can replay it over and over again when I’m in the office or when I can’t be out on the water with fly rod in hand.

    If that’s not an attitude assessment / check, I don’t know what one is then.

    Life, and especially fly fishing, should be savored and experienced to its fullest — as we never know when our last river ‘session’ will be our last!

    Tight lines.


    Mark Greer
    South Jordan, UT

    • Mark, People talk a lot about the zen of fly fishing. Most of them know nothing about zen. That is an excellent explanation of zen in fly fishing. You sir, are on the road to enlightenment! Thanks you.

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