My wife and I have been going to the same area in Colorado for the 18 years we have known each other, and she had been going there for the 20 years prior. We eat well, catch up on sleep and fly fish almost every day. In fact, going there and loving it was a condition of our relationship; fortunately, it is an easy place to love.
We are “small stream” fishermen which is quite different from fishing larger streams with larger, more temperamental fish. Fishermen in those “gold medal” waters look down their noses at fishermen like us and we think they are missing a great experience by fishing in a crowd. We often hike a couple of miles just to get to the stream, we are almost always alone in the wilderness except for a passing hiker, we throw all the fish back and we have a beer and chips when we get back to the truck. What’s not to like?
Every fisherman has his own “fish stories” but they will also passionately describe the fishing experience. So, to add my own two cents, here are just a few lessons from fishing that occurred to me on this trip.
Persistence is key – With wind, overhanging branches and fast water, it often takes many casts to get the fly just where you want it. And then you try over and over until a fish strikes at the fly or at least makes its presence known. Often it becomes obvious there is no fish that is going to take the fly in that spot and we move on. Even though we don’t keep the fish, a day of fishing with only a couple of catches is disappointing. But we are back at it the next day, usually on a different stretch of water with different weather and probably a different fly.
Details matter – Some gold medal fishermen select a new fly with every new fish to adjust to the water, the fish’s preference and the “hatch” of insects over the water that day. We are not that precise but the approach to the spot, the angle of the cast, the light and shadows and the fly can all have an impact in a small stream. After a period of no catches, Laura changed her fly and casually cast just to test out the fly – and caught the biggest fish of the day.
Too much detail can spoil it – As in most pursuits, becoming too immersed in arcane equipment, techniques and terminology can overwhelm the greater experience. Of course we want to catch fish but not at the expense of marveling at the sky, the mountains, the trees, the wildlife and the changing colors. There is a balance to almost everything.
Failure often occurs in a sure thing – The water is right, the light is perfect, you’ve been catching fish with the same fly, your position is ideal, the cast is perfect – and nothing. So you cast again, and again, because there just has to be a fish in there, until you finally give up and move to the next spot, muttering that the spot must have been recently fished by someone else or some other reason you did not catch a fish. It is never due to your skill as a fisherman.
Success can be found in unexpected places and ways – It is not that unusual to catch a fish you never saw strike at the fly or when you have cast just for the hell of it in a stretch of water that is too fast or shallow to support a decent-sized fish. Even more surprising is after stumbling through the stream making lots of noise and disturbing your fishing partner as well as every fish within 100 yards, you still catch a nice fish. You may even admit the catch was pure luck. Fishing involves the unpredictability of nature and other creatures, which easily confound us mere humans.
It helps to know your abilities – Laura is an artist with a fishing rod. She can cast a fly into tight, narrow spots that most fisherman would never try. As a result, she catches plenty of nice fish because they are not the target of every fisherman that comes along. I, on the other hand, am more of a blunt instrument, often tangled or snagged and needing a lot more space to maneuver. But we use dry flies that are meant to float on top of the water and I do have a knack for catching fish after the fly has gone underwater. We make a good team.
These lessons apply to many life situations, not the least of which is investing and long-term financial success. Control the things you can and accept that there will be some unexpected developments as well as market fluctuations. Establish long-term goals and a plan to support those goals and then stick with it. Keep the big picture in mind and don’t get sidetracked by some enticing “opportunity”. Understand that there will definitely be some setbacks and that you may need some expert assistance.
Most important, if the process of financial planning interferes with, rather than enhances, your enjoyment along the way, you’re doing something wrong.