A good angler doesn’t need patience. He needs persistence.
I forget who said this to me, and for that I apologize. But the message has endured. It’s a guiding theme for me, not just on the water, but in everyday life. The distinction between the two states of patience and persistence is a maxim that carries over, well beyond the river.
In some ways they are opposites. Patience is waiting for something to happen. And persistence is making something happen.
Over time, patience has been pinned to fishing, as if the two go hand in hand. And I think that’s a mistake. It’s an attached stigma that doesn’t fit — not for Troutbitten anglers, anyway.
Once again, it’s apparent that words themselves change the way we think about things. Words and meanings change how we do things. New anglers are taught that fishing is a quiet, patient sport. And so they wait. They are content when nothing happens.
Many anglers never grow out of this waiting, under some belief that simply putting in the time will eventually produce results. And to some, patience itself is a reward. It should be, really. There is value in seeing things through, in having the will to stick with a task where the fruits of labor are slow in coming, where waiting is a virtue.
But all you really need is a full day spent with a persistent fisherman to know that your patience isn’t really getting anything done.
The persistent angler doesn’t accept much about the idea of patience. He is restless. He knows that quality fishing means correcting the inefficiencies, scrapping bad technique and actively forming good habits. He is a tireless critic of his own performance and uses an honest overview as a motivator to be better.
The passion for fly fishing grows quickly in the average angler. How can it not? The places that wild trout take us are a panacea that fills us with emotion and enthusiasm unmatched in daily life. The river calls to us, and we return. But in truth, that spark dims over time. The extraordinary becomes common, and we no longer feel that same effect of the woods and the water. It’s human nature to adapt and a find a comfortable place among our surroundings, and so we grow familiar with what was once stunning and magnificent. In short, just being out there no longer satisfies. The novelty wears off.
Patience in the face of such comfort fails us. And the angler who was once enamored with the extraordinary experience of a river is no longer filled with the same desire to return — when the newness is gone. He stands unimpressed and uncharmed by what have become common things. An angler who can cast a dry over conflicting currents to achieve a drag free look to a rising trout, for example, may eventually lose the spark that helped him achieve that success in the first place.
It’s a cycle. And those of us who’ve been with the woods and water for decades see the path from afar. Youthful enthusiasm burns out over time. But persistence keeps die-hard anglers involved in a long-game. A drive to understand a drifting nymph in totality, or to test streamer presentations regardless of failure or success — these are the things that keep an angler involved for a lifetime.
It is persistence that keeps us alive, open to new challenges, and on an unrelenting course to meet new goals.
Of course, we understand too that patience is a component of persistence. Because as we push to develop new skills, we must wait between trips until the moment our boots are wet again. Patience is necessary. And yet, too much of it fosters complacency, a satisfaction with memories and plans rather than a dogged determination to get back out there and continue on our path.
Persistence is the primary character trait of a good angler and one that keeps him involved for a lifetime. Patience is but a secondary helper.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N