I’ve been tying a lot of flies lately, and with fly tying comes reminiscing. Personally, I can’t help but lose myself in the experiences I have had while I am at the vise. One day, in particular, seems to stand out the most for me today. I was fishing a relatively quick stretch of river just below the damn where I live. We had some rain recently and the water was a bit cloudy so I tied on an olive damsel with silver bead eyes and used a random pattern of stripping to retrieve it. Sunfish, Rio Grand Cichlids, and Small Mouth Bass were hitting almost every cast. It was one of those hot afternoons where you get to wet-wade in refreshing water and enjoy the aggressive nature of little fish. A small crowd formed on the river bank. OK… It was more like a family and their dog. Regardless, I had a small audience. The shadow of a pretty sizable Rio caught my eye in the shallows of the far bank. I pulled my line up off the water into a back-cast and proceeded to make a few false casts paying out line with every forward stroke. Soon, I was ready to launch. The line flew past me on my final back cast. I waited for the rod to load… Only it didn’t. I looked back in time to see the tip section of my rod zipping down the line and splashing into the water behind me. My heart went into my throat as I spun my head to see if my audience had noticed. They had. And they found the incident quite amusing. I’m not going to lie, this one hurt a little.
I’ve struggled with confidence my entire life. I let myself awareness and fear of looking dumb interfere with my activities. Up until a year ago, I hadn’t been fly fishing since I was a kid. “What if people see me mess up?” “What if they also fly fish and notice my imperfect loops?” A year ago I came to a realization when talking with my father on the phone. He told me he considers himself a novice; a claim that a lot of experienced fishermen like him make. That was the “aha” moment for me. Fly fishing is inherently difficult. It doesn’t matter how good you are, how much you practice, or how long you have been doing it. You’re going to make mistakes. And other fly fisherman are going to laugh. But they really aren’t laughing at you (at least not all the time). They are laughing because you just reminded them of the time they did exactly what you just did.
Replace fly fishing with whatever activity you want. Backpacking, cycling, hunting, off-roading, whatever. All outdoor activities have a learning curve and we all had to start somewhere. Don’t let your lack of knowledge, lack of experience or fear of looking foolish keep you from starting your next adventure.