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The Psychology of Fishing - Confidence

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Confidence must not be confused with arrogance. Arrogance is noisy and loud whereas confidence is secure and quiet. Nor is true confidence anything like over-confidence. Over-confidence is the mindset, basically, of a fool. Over-confidence is the hallmark of an angler who cannot understand the glorious mystery of what he is doing and who woefully overestimates his ability to decipher the true messages given out by the songs from the riverbank.

No, true, quiet confidence is a marvellous thing to have. If you have confidence, you fish well. You will devise a plan or a working order of plans and stick with it, not flustered, not easily diverted. But if you're confident, you'll also have your eyes open and you'll be able to interpret new, vital clues that are presenting themselves around you. If you see something truly remarkable, then you'll have the confidence to believe in what you see and modify your plans accordingly.

Confidence creates a belief in your own abilities. Not that these abilities are super-human but simply abilities that you recognise and trust in. If you're confident, then you'll persist with a particularly difficult fish over and over again until he wins or until you win. And if you're confident, it doesn't matter much who wins because in the end, you know the game is the thing and not necessarily the score.

Because you're confident, you won't scurry up and down the riverbank like a being possessed but you'll move much more slowly, with far greater consideration, trusting yourself to interpret all that the riverbank is telling you. Confidence means you'll have the time to sit on a bench or look over a river bridge for minutes, if not hours, at a time watching flies lift off, watching the beat of a single trout, knowing that you don't need a bag of fish to convince yourself you're a master.

If you're confident, you are quite happy to register a blank day because you won't view it necessarily as a failure and torture yourself with it during the night to come. You'll realise that you fished as well as you could and that's good enough for you. Through you're confidence, you'll be happy to admit to yourself you could have done better but when you think about your mistakes it's not with horror but with careful consideration, calmly plotting how to do better next time out.

Confident in yourself, you'll be happy to tell somebody who is struggling the best fly to use or the best lie to try. You'll do this with utter sincerity and a true desire to help because you are confident there are fish and there are flies enough for everyone.

Trusting in yourself, you will know that there are times when your confidence will be shaken and you will question your ability ever to catch a fish again. But your confidence will heal all this and tell you there are better days to come. Because you are confident, you have wells of comfort to draw upon, oceans of experience in reserve.

Confidence doesn't make you smug and shut up your ears to the advice of others. The very reverse. Your confidence enables you to listen to new theories, to watch new techniques and to think how new things can be implemented in your present techniques. Confidence means that you're not defensive or blinkered to any approaches but your own.

An angler who isn't  confident will catch one fish, perhaps none at all because he is constantly fretting, doubting himself, trying a new idea before the present one has had time to work one way or another. A confident angler will catch three or four fish because he does most things correctly in a measured sort of way and can change course if need be to save the day. An arrogant man catches six fish because he wants to beat the water, to beat his companions and, perhaps, hide from his own insecurities. A confident man, for example, can laugh at himself when he gets snagged up knowing it's inevitable. An arrogant man, however, will be furious, constantly looking around him, praying that his great failure has gone unwitnessed by anyone.

Confidence generally comes with age but that's not always so. Confidence can be stumbled on early by those fortunate enough to have fished since childhood. These anglers learned to fish local streams and ponds almost as soon as they could walk or cycle. By school age, they were confident in catching their minnows and sticklebacks and they took that confidence with them on through the years. By college, they were confident in catching trout from crystal clear streams. By the time they were married, they were confident with salmon or steelhead. By the time their children arrived, they were confident they could teach them not only to fish but how to make the most of a fishing day. And by old age, these anglers who had seen and learnt so much were confident there was nothing left in life or anywhere in their futures to faze them.

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