Patience vs Persistence

by | Feb 13, 2019 | 37 comments

A good angler doesn’t need patience. He needs persistence.

This is a guiding theme I’ve taken up, 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. But that’s a mistake. It’s an attached stigma that doesn’t fit — not for Troutbitten anglers, anyway. So 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. And they are content when nothing happens.

Many anglers never grow out of this waiting, under some mistaken 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 our labor are slow in coming, where waiting is a virtue.

But all you 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.

Photo by Bill Dell

The passion for fly fishing grows quickly in the average angler. How can it not? The places where 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, the spark dims over time. The extraordinary becomes common, and we no longer feel that same effect of the woods and 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, may eventually lose the spark that helped him achieve that success in the first place.

“All you need is a full day spent with a persistent fisherman to know that your patience isn’t really getting anything done.”

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 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.

** Donate ** If you enjoy this article, please consider a donation. Your support is what keeps this Troutbitten project funded. Scroll below to find the Donate Button. And thank you.

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 600 articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers
Your support is greatly appreciated

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

More from this Category

What does it take to catch a big trout?

What does it take to catch a big trout?

For many years, I believed that it takes nothing special to catch a big trout. I argued with friends about this over beers, during baseball games, on drives to the river and through text messages at 1:00 am. My contention was always that big trout don’t require anything extraordinary to seal the deal. They need a quality drift, a good presentation, and if they are hungry they will eat it. I frequently pushed back against the notion that big wild trout were caught only with exceptional skill.

So for all who’ve heard me make this argument, I’d like to offer this revision: I still believe that large trout don’t need more than a good presentation. But what is GOOD may actually be pretty special. Meaning, it’s rare to find the skill level necessary to consistently get good drifts and put them over trout (large or small).

Here’s more . . .

The Twenty Dollar Cast

The Twenty Dollar Cast

“Okay, Dad,” Joey bellowed over the whitewater. “Here’s the twenty dollar cast . . .”

His casting loop unfolded and kicked the nymph over with precision. And when the fly tucked into the darkest side of the limestone chunk, Joey kept the rod tip up, holding all extra line off the water. It was a gorgeous drift. And the air thickened with anticipation.

We watched together in silence as Joey milked that drift until the very end. And I think we were both a little surprised when nothing interrupted the long, deep ride of over thirty feet.

“Not this time, buddy,” I told him.

Joey flicked his wrist and repeated the same cast to the dark side of the rock. And because the world is a wonderful place, a no-doubter clobbered the stonefly nymph . . .

Nobody Home | Nobody Hungry

Nobody Home | Nobody Hungry

Nobody home means there’s no trout in the slot you were fishing. And sometimes that’s true. Nobody hungry suggests that a trout might be in the slot but he either isn’t eating, isn’t buying what you’re selling, or he doesn’t like the way you are selling it.

Does it matter? It sure does!

New Structure | Old Structure

New Structure | Old Structure

One of my favorite places in the world is a deeply shaded valley that runs north and south between two towering mountains of mixed hardwoods. The forest floor has enough conifers mixed in to block much of the sunlight, even in the winter. The ferns of spring grow tall, and thick moss is spread throughout. The ground remains soft enough here that all large trees eventually surrender to the valley. When they can no longer support their weight in the soft spongy ground, they fall over, leaving a broken forest of deep greens and the dark-chocolate browns of wet, dead bark. It’s gorgeous.

Fallen timber also dictates the course of this cold water stream. The fresh tree falls force the creek to bend away from the hillside. Rolling water carves away the earth and lays bare the rocks — these stones of time, as Maclean puts it. And when water cuts into a neighboring channel, previously dry for centuries, new river banks are undercut and fresh roots exposed . . .

Light Dry Dropper in the Flow

Light Dry Dropper in the Flow

. . .The flow of the fly line through the air is finesse and freedom. Contrasted with nymphing, streamer fishing, or any other method that adds weight to the system, casting the weightless dry fly with a fly line is poetry.

The cast is unaffected because the small soft hackle on a twelve-inch tether simply isn’t heavy enough to steal any provided slack from the dry. It’s an elegant addition that keeps the art of dry fly fishing intact . . .

Angler Types in Profile: The Gear Guy

Angler Types in Profile: The Gear Guy

I think every angler has some gear obsession. It’s part of us. Because fishing is the kind of activity that requires a lot of stuff. Big things and small. Clothing and boots, packs and boxes, lines and tools — and all the stuff that non-fishers never imagine when they think of a fishing pole. So it’s understandable that we pack our gear bags with stuff we know we need and then add in everything we think we might need. Time on the water is limited, and we want to feel prepared.

But nothing signals rookie more than a clean fisherman.

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.

37 Comments

  1. Eager to return to the river .

    Reply
    • Me too. Always.

      Reply
    • Start off every fishing day at certain hole that always has fished,unless some knuckleheads have just waded thru it,and will try different nymphs to see flavor of the day. And after 10 minutes definitely does take patience,but persistence in changing till hit right one has saved the day!!

      Reply
  2. Dom, It is true that there is a general confusion about the difference between patience and persistence. I’ll take credit for the saying that “Fly fishermen need persistence, not patience”. Given that I say this every time someone says to me “I don’t have the patience to be a fisherman”. (I’m sure I said this to you at least once during our times together). Sitting on the bank watching for a rod to twitch, is patience. Reading water, changing flies, moving to new water, continuing to try for that perfect drift over a riser…that’s persistence.

    Reply
    • Ahhh. That WAS you, Bill. Thanks!

      Reply
  3. Wonderful piece of writing!

    Reply
    • Thank you, John.

      Reply
  4. Patience is necessary when entering a river before a hatch and sitting down and watching the water, bugs, etc. before entering the water. I had to learn this lesson while fishing the upper delaware. Patience and persistence goes hand in hand there. You can’t force that river with persistence when patience is necessary to dissect a hatch and figuring out what the hell is going on around you there.

    Reply
    • I force the Upper Delaware system with persistence every time I’m up there. I love catching trout mono riggin nymphs while people hang out waiting for risers.

      Reply
      • Same is true on central PA waters. You can patiently sit around waiting for bugs to hatch, and some do. Or, you can persistently arrive with a nymph rig so you can catch fish instead of sitting around, swapping that out for a dry fly rig when the bugs show and the fish start to look up.

        Reply
    • Used to vist Oneonta once a month and loved exploring around Delaware,so different from out west rivers,but see some huge trout coming out of it. Do you guys have warm water issues during summer,we often stop at noon in Nevada

      Reply
      • Hi Rich.

        In the hottest summers, we start watching the temps on are largest rivers, yes.

        Dom

        Reply
  5. Whoa, lots to think about with this piece, Dominic. Nice distinction. I just caught a beautiful steelhead, swinging a fly last week after 2 long years of learning how to skagit cast, find good water, tie flies…etc. This is entirely different than my trout fishing experience, where you know the fish are there and you just need to solve the puzzle. Intercepting anadromous fish like salmon and steelhead has so many added variables. I like this piece of wisdom: You need 3 things in fishing: First you need a fish. Then you need a fly that interests them, and finally you need to put it in front of them. For steelhead in particular, that takes a lot of persistence.

    Reply
    • Good call.

      Reply
  6. My father is a very patient angler that doesn’t get out as much as he’d like- and enjoys ‘just being out’ when he does.. I notice he will fish the same hole or run with the same flies rigged for inordinate amounts of time. When this tactic doesn’t produce results the common refrain is “that’s fishing”.. While not completely untrue, my limited experience has taught me that your chances of a hook up from a given hole, run, etc. decrease with each additional presentation. So while patience can give way to repeated water flogging, persistence is a restless driver that pushes me to put mileage on my boots and find those eaters. I often think about the old adage that ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result’

    Reply
  7. A good article, and bang on. I tell clients they need patience and determination, but persistence is a better description. Here in Britain it’s the winter grayling season and persistence is definitely a requirement.

    Angle with poise
    John

    Reply
    • Right on.

      Reply
  8. When I think of patience when fishing, my mind goes back as a young kid fishing with bait and a cane pole. It didn’t take me long to be less than satisfied with results, so the hunting instinct came out. So to say I’m patient or persistent would be wrong. I’m both. I accept that the fly I use may not work, but I’m more than willing to try something else.

    When I work with my grandsons, I teach them patience and to own the results and do something about it.

    Reply
    • I like it, Lou.

      Reply
  9. Persistence must be combined with “awareness”, the awareness of a large brained predator.
    Fish Hard – and Fish Smart!

    Reply
  10. I had a coach that said “opportunity is often disguised as hard work”, the fish are there and you have to be persistent and put in the work to catch them. I used to think “fish hard” was long hours and covering lots of water, but from our trip I now understand that you need to put in the hard work, changing flies, weight, rigs etc. I used to be “patient” fishing the same fly over and over and be “persistent” by moving on to the next hole. Changing flies or switching to streamers to re fish a hole was hard work (my knot skills and eye sight sucked) but actually it’s an opportunity. With pre rigged flies, streamers and the mono rig, it is not hard work at all, its working smarter not harder.
    I have found that there are times when you have to be patient, in life,fishing, whatever, however I think you always have to be persistent in everything you do to be successful.
    Thanks for the great read.

    Reply
    • Perfect

      Reply
  11. Patience is waiting for your next post; persistence is checking at least once a day.

    Reply
  12. Great post on perspective. Patience to me is still working which leads me to be persistent in finding fishing opportunities. Two years ago I joined a local fly fishing club and last year I had 20 mostly persistent days on the water with my club. Highly recommend readers joining a club if they are having trouble finding reasons to go fish. In closing I try to always start my days on the water by reflecting on God’s amazing creation.

    Reply
  13. I’m new too fly fishing and stumbled upon your site. Wow! One of the best I’ve seen so far.

    I like the saying “make haste slowly” which for me means to move quickly but not so quickly that you make stupid mistakes. I’m learning to slow down just a bit, read water, etc and it’s paying dividends.

    Greg

    Reply
  14. Such a great read. And I’m with you, the longer I fish, the more I feel fishing (and life) is largely about decision making and discipline. And the more experience you gain, the more informed your decisions become.

    That sounds well and good, but it ain’t easy to consistently make conscious changes to your fishing technique until you find success. To me, that’s persistence. If I’m honest with myself, sometimes I excuse my own laziness by saying to myself I was patient. Lately, I’ve been saying to myself that each session is a meditation. That’s been helping me stay persistent. Again, awesome read. Keep doing what your doing.

    Reply
  15. Fantastic piece Dom. I’ve had many of these same thoughts, and you brought them out in this write up. Summer 2021 will make 13 years for me with a fly rod. I don’t think I was ever patient, almost always persistent. I’ve found that there is less than one handful of guys I like to spend a day fishing with…… and they are also persistent. I’ve never enjoyed fishing with someone who wants to spend 2 hours in the same hole, casting the same fly, never moving their feet, never adjusting shot, or adjusting cast angle. At times, I’ve also questioned myself if I’m “catching the same High” as I did in those early years. I remember when a 3 fish day put a smile on face for a week. But that changed over time. It’s when I started experimenting and trying new techniques (mono rig for example), that my ‘flame for the game’ got ignited again. I’ve spent time with guys that flogged water all day, refusing to add one more shot, or reducing fly size. It’s miserable to witness. IMO, you have to be a competitor to be a fly fisherman. You vs the river, you vs the fish, you vs the weather, you vs the canopy, you vs the odds, and you vs yourself. Again, this might be my favorite piece to date. John

    Reply
  16. Well done. I couldn’t agree more. To me, patience leads to insanity – doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. I try to avoid insanity by being persistent

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

Pin It on Pinterest