If I asked you to choose 5 activities that would improve you as a human being and build your character in a positive way, my guess is that you wouldn’t select fly fishing – despite your passion for the sport! However, I would argue that fly fishing is capable of exactly that! There are numerous lessons that can be learned whilst prospecting on a river, or polaroiding on a lake. Some of the lessons you learn will go further to develop your character, if you are willing to accept the lesson in a positive light. Despite this, it does require a certain amount of conscious effort to develop your character positively through fly fishing. As most of us would know, sometimes there is potential for it to go the other way and become a negative lesson. However, with an open mind, and an ability to read into common fly fishing occurrences, you to could become a more well rounded person whilst doing something that you consider a hobby! So, I have outlined 6 character traits, or lessons that fly fishing can teach you. Maybe on you next adventure into the wilderness you could keep these points in mind.
This is huge in fly fishing – hence the number one position! It begins to take place from the moment you begin to learn the art, and continues through your fly fishing journey where the requirement of patience manifests in differing ways on different parts of the process. Many trees will be hooked, flies will be lost, and fish will be spooked! Patience is also needed when waiting for your mate to finish fishing his section, or when netting a decent fish, or sight fishing – being able to wait and watch for any ‘fishy’ movement. When these things happen, think of them as an opportunity to develop your patience.
Persistence is also an important one. A great example when you should practice your persistence is to a stubborn fish, who, continues to refuse the flies your putting in front of them. Just persist! There was a six-pound fish that I hooked under a bank on the Mataura river back in 2015. I had put in at least 10 casts to this fish and I was beginning to think it was potentially a rock or a tree root. Whatever it was, it clearly wasn’t spooked so, I put in another cast and sure enough… it was in fact a fish, and it was now attached to my fly line. Persistence pays off! Change flies, change your position, be innovative!
Say, for instance, you’ve booked a trip to New Zealand months in advance. When you get there, you find that there are gale force winds and some of the rivers you wanted to fish are blow out from rain over the last couple of nights. The forecast for the next few days isn’t looking promising either. Are you a resilient angler, or would you prefer to give up the chance to catch a trophy fish because of a bit of wind or a slight downpour? Look for a different alternative. A lake perhaps, or a smaller creek that hasn’t been effected by the rain.
Determination and resilience just about go hand in hand. If we consider it, determination fuels resilience. You could say that resilience is born from a determined attitude. How hard are you going to work on a day when the fish haven’t come out to join the party? Will you persist until the sun departs behind the mountains and you’re forced to pull the pin? Determination is putting in you best effort and then some.
In a world that is very much the opposite to unhurried, it can be very challenging to implement a lifestyle that is resolved on being calm amid chaos. Fly fishing can very quickly teach you that being rushed will only lead to more frustration. I’ve had plenty of those experiences. You spot a fish feeding up river, quickly tear enough fly line off your real and make your first cast only to be stopped immediately by a branch behind you. If only you took and extra 15 seconds to assess the situation. feeding pattern of the fish, your position in regards to the fish, and to make sure your back cast was clear, you would have hedged your bets to hook that fish and been more well prepared to land it as well. Take your time… there should be no set agenda whilst fly fishing!
The final lesson I’ve identified is appreciation. To be an appreciative person means to value something or someone. Normally, we base our appreciation off a gold-standard of some sorts. Whether that be a day of perfect weather and feeding fish on a river somewhere or a cloudless night camping where the stars are putting on an incredible spectacle. These two examples are what would be considered a gold standard. Anyone can appreciate an excellent days fishing where fish after fish are landed, and casting is a breeze. Similarly, anyone can appreciate the stars in the sky on a perfect night in the wilderness. It doesn’t make you an appreciative person because you appreciate something that is considered ‘good’ or ‘enjoyable’. True appreciation might simply be taking 10 minutes to lay on a river bank and consider what an incredible opportunity it is to be able to fish in a river that holds trout that can grow up to 10 pounds – despite not seeing a fish for the whole day. Even the fact the landscapes and rivers like this still exist in the world today. It probably won’t always be like this, so make the most of it, respect the environment, and be appreciative! If your having an ordinary day and can’t think of something to appreciate… think harder!!