The Challenge: share a fly fishing moment where you #getskunked and tell us why it wasn’t a failure
Here is a photo of me getting skunked, No fish to net, no grip and grin besides my coffee mug and pup:
How many of you feel pressure to catch fish? Or question your worth as a fly fisher if you don't catch fish? Or work harder to catch fish when others are around, or if a bigger fish has been caught by someone else? Has a fishing trip ever gone so off-script that you get bummed enough to swear off fishing entirely, or question if fish even live in the water you're fishing? "Nope, no fish here!"
Logically, if your map has a little fish logo over the water you're fishing, the unlikely scenario of a cartographer conspiracy is not the reason why you haven't caught fish. Logically, the resident fish didn’t hear about your fishing plans, pack up, and head out to some other watershed just to avoid you. And those monster trout in your Instagram feed aren’t mocking you. But sometimes it does feel like this happening. What could be happening is something you have some agency in: how are you responding to your frustrating reality? Have you really “tried everything?” Are you asking yourself the right questions to get more information, or telling yourself you’ve failed and refusing any other possibility?
Our expectations inhibit us from seeing – and fully appreciating – the beautiful complexity of what is right in front of us. Expectations create pressure for an experience to “live up” to what we think it should be. It’s especially easy for expectations to be formed as we get swept up in the excitement about something we love, like fly fishing. At the end of the day, we expect to catch fish, we expect to have our skills and knowledge be of use and not leave us empty handed. But sometimes it just doesn't pan out - does that make it a "failure?" We think not.
Unmet expectations will continue to color your experience until you call out frustration for narrating your life and decide how you want to curate it yourself. We all remember – vividly – the fish we didn’t catch. Our brains are wired in a way for us to remember it: the massive log of a brown trout who got away when you dropped the slack line. The swirling brook trout who snapped off your fly in a surprising dive away from the boat. The rainbow who wouldn’t cooperate over a log jam. All of these (very real) scenarios live in my mind in absolute clarity. These moments can affect how we relive it for as long as our memory lasts us - especially if we don't actively play a part in filling the details. Ask yourself questions as you feel frustration build or find that pressure to “live up” mounting within. By taking a breath to observe, we become better fly fishers and prepare our minds to remember all the good parts: the whistle of a goldeneye flying upstream, your fishing buddy's laughter after catching that shrub again, the soft whirling current around your feet - the beautiful world existing around you.
So let’s take a step away from the frustration and start asking more of ourselves and our experience. Let’s close our eyes and think back to the last time we were skunked: what did you hear? What did the water and woods smell like? What birds were singing or flying through? What wildflowers did you observe on your walk in? What did your packed lunch taste like? What aquatic bugs did you notice under a rock? What skill or tactic did you improve by practicing without the distraction of hooking up to a fish? Who did you share your day with, or was this a moment of pure solitude where you were present with yourself, for yourself? Do you remember?
Let’s revisit that photo of me getting skunked: no fish to net, no grip and grin besides my coffee mug and pup. Here is a photo of me with warm sunshine on my face after a long Maine winter, listening to the sound of lake water against the canoe and a loon in the distance. Here is a photo of me scouting where a nice alder fly hatch could happen later in the summer, and where deep cold water pools will provide trout sanctuary on hot July days. Here is a photo of me getting skunked - and I'm loving it.
We have a challenge for you: get out there and #getskunked. Embrace a moment where the fish don’t show up to the fly fishing party and make a point to observe what else is happening around you. Tell us what there is to love and celebrate about the experiences you’ve had personally, or maybe shared with a fishing buddy. Tag your fishing buddies to get them in on the journey. We have some awesome fly fishing swag to motivate you on this mission: a SIMMS hat, Damselfly Fishing Snood, United Women on the Fly goodies – all you need to do is tell us what there is to love when you #getskunked and follow us on Instagram or Facebook. We’ll be selecting a winner from all entries on July 8th, giving you plenty of time this spring and summer to get out there.
Be sure to follow along at @confluence.collective as we will be highlighting stories from you all about getting skunked, and sharing more details on prizes you can win by participating. Now go #getskunked!