Charles Dickens famously wrote, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”
I guess those sentences can be used to describe many situations.
For instance, right now, an open water angler might feel those words describe this time of year.
They’re really just another way of saying, “It is spring. But our lakes are still frozen.”
That’s why, right now, in countless basements and garages across Ontario, anglers are organizing their tackle and daydreaming about the open water fishing season to come.
New anglers, of course, tend to be optimists. They dream about perfect casts, excellent lure selections, precise boat control, great hook sets, flawless drag settings, big fish that are only too willing to bite, heroic battles, and perfect trophy photos for social media. They also dream of those sunny days with little wind and no one else on the water. And days when fish never spit the hook.
Trust me, this is a mistake.
Looking at fishing through those rose-coloured glasses can only lead to great expectations. And great expectations often result in frustration and disappointment.
If I learned anything at all from my teachers, it was that.
No, as far as I’m concerned, it is far better to face up to last year’s nightmares.
That’s why, this time of year, I will call my fishing buddies and we will spend time talking about the tangled lines and the bird’s nests that occupied our reels when we needed them most. With will laugh about the nets that suddenly had fish-sized holes in them. We will fondly remember the snags on inanimate and animated objects and the lures – God bless them – that were lost. We will wince when we discuss the people on docks 100 yards away who yelled at us because we were “fishing too close.” Oh, and the ice-cold water and the leaky waders that let it all in.
And because we are friends, we will tease each other about the big fish lost at the boat, the launch when we realized the boat plug was still in the vehicle, and that time the angler “who had no idea what he is doing” got a limit of nice fish while we, the experienced pros, got skunked. We will also recognize the many times when, even though we were doing everything right, the fish ignored us. Or that time one of us posed with the biggest fish of the year, and watched helplessly as it wriggled out of our hands and back into the water, making a huge splash, before a single photo was ever taken.
Trust me. We have learned it is far healthier to get all this out of our systems now. You don’t want to enter a fishing season with great expectations.
It’s far better to remember the reality and so you approach the season with lower but more achievable expectations. That way, you won’t be frustrated when some of these things happen again – as each of them has for me, for the last 45 years running.
If anything, you want your expectations to have nowhere to go but up.
You see, we old hands recognize that fishing could simultaneously be the best of times or the worst of times. It really just depends on whether you are the one holding or taking the photo of the trophy fish that just made that big splash.