Not at all.
Let me take minute to explain. A short while ago I readily agreed to take a couple of new guys fishing on the big lake. I enjoy taking new people on Lake Michigan for a morning of salmon and trout fishing, but it comes with it's own list of anxieties and nail biters. We've all been there. Will we get a good amount of bites? Will we catch salmon? Trout? Will we even catch fish.
The last one is what bothered me the most that day, just like any other time I've taken people out fishing. I've taken new people on the lake several times, and, like anyone else, I always want to give them a day to remember filled with popping rods, screaming drags and full coolers. So as we boarded the boat that morning I gave the obligatory disclaimer; "guys I can't promise anything out there", which was true as fishing had grown stingy over the last few days. I received the obligatory reply; "don't worry about it, we're happy with whatever happens". And of course, I didn't believe them. Not for a second. What did they mean by that? Did they think I couldn't catch fish? Couldn't pick the right baits, the right troll, the right good luck charm hanging from the rocket launcher? Make the right facial expressions! Hmmm, I better watch these guys. Even though I've known them for a while who knows what type of doubters I had lurking on the back deck.
As expected the day was slow. I changed lures, rods, presentations, trolls, meat rigs, flies and even the good luck charm, but nothing seemed to help. As I sat there stewing in my own failure I noticed something. These guys were smiling, laughing and carrying on like the fish were jumping in the boat. That can't be right I thought. But they were. Then I remembered something a prominent charter captain out of Ludington once told me. He said "Chris, you and I have different expectations than others that fish on our boats. We want to go out and have popping rods and screaming drags and full coolers, but the people that come on our boats don't expect that. They just want to enjoy themselves". And you know what, he was exactly right, because these guys were doing just that, and who was I to argue with it. The light started to come on about then.
The day went on smoothly with our Big Jon downriggers and rod holders working flawlessly (as always), and the day ended with four bites and three fish. But that didn't matter anymore. As we docked and exited the boat the guys genuinely thanked me repeatedly for a great time, and did the same thing again after I cleaned and bagged the fish and we said our goodbyes. I think as fishermen and women we often put way too much pressure on ourselves to put as many, and as big of fish, as we can in the boat. We judge our fellow anglers on those criteria constantly, and anyone that doesn't measure up is cast aside in our minds as inept, or worse. That day I took a moment to reflect back on when I was five years old standing on the beach at my grandparent's house equipped with a cane pole, a bobber and a can of worms. Those may have been the happiest days of my life as it relates to fishing. It didn't matter how many of those five inch blue gills I caught, or how big they were. I was happy just sitting in the sun waiting for that bobber to vanish. I think many of us could benefit if we could go back to those type of days now. Remember, they're just fish.
I know I'm going to enjoy the boat rides much more on future trips.
So on that day with my two friends,
Was I discouraged?
Not at all.