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mental aspects of fishing

Norm M

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Mental Aspects of Fishing Success- Musings From a Lifetime of Learning

When I first set out to learn how to fish rivers there was not a lot of information availible on the
subject.There was no Internet-ergo no easily accessed websites like River Smallies or the ISA
forums where you have excellent information avaiible.The national magazines really didn't cater
to river fisherman with the exception of some minimally helpful trout articles.I finally found a
magazine-Fishing Facts on the newsstands with articles by Dan Gapen which were very
valuable.The local libraries had some books written by trout guys with names like Bates,
Brooks and Ovington. These books were helpful once it occurred to me that current was
current and learned to apply thier teachings to my style of fishing.

For the most part though it was getting out and doing it and learning from my mistakes,putting in
my time on the water.I was lucky enough to have a couple old riverrats take me under their wing
but only after I proved myself worthy in their eyes.It was through their efforts that things finally
started coming together.At the time I didn't understand why they helped but I was glad they did.
Now that I am older I realize they felt the same thing I am feeling now, the need to pass along
what I learned and not let it die with me.They were limited to passing it along person to person but
that is probably the best way to teach.I,however,have the opportunity to share with a much wider
audience through the RS forums.

There have been some sources of learning already acknowledged and others like InFisherman and
The Hunting and Fishing Library to name a couple to which I am indebted.There have also been some
individuals along the way who have contributed.One who desreves acknowledgement is my good
friend Phill Fiscella . He has the rare gift of really making me think about things and coming up with
truly innovative and interesting approaches to fishing.I would like to thank Phil now for all the great
conversations and times we shared on the water and wiil have in the future.

The best thing you can do for yourself to be more successful is to develop a sense of confidence in
your abilities.You should be able to believe that YOU WILLCATCH A FISH ON EVERY CAST and to
sustain that belief no matter what.If you go in with the attitude I'm not going to catch fish that will
become a selffulling prophecy.Learning to believe in yourself and that you will catch fish is not easy
to do.It is worth the effort as once you have the attitude you will succeed you are more alert and
attentive to your surroundings.Your mind will not be wandering, you will see and feel more strikes,
thus catching more fish.

In my opinion the next best thing you can do is to keep learning, all the time,everytime.You should
learn from both success and failure.I believe you can learn more from failure than success even
though it is human nature to remember the good times and forget about the bad times.When you
have success do your best all the factors involved and write them down if necessary.When you fail
remember what you tried and analyze it for ways to change and improve.You should question your
usual ways of thinking as well as trying new techniques and changing locations.You need to bear in
mind that you will never know everything and that learning will be a lifelong process.

Another thing that helps is to make a gameplan before you get in the water or start casting.Learn
to read the water and decide in advance where to wade, the route to be waded,where to cast and
what you will use in each spot.I would reccommend a plan to throughly cover the water if that is how
you fish.If not, than make yourself happy and use what floats your cork.I would suggest something on
the order of:shallow fast-shallow slow, deep fast-deep slow and then strain the mid and upper parts of
the water column.

If your initial efforts fail,don't keep stubbornly pounding the water.It is better to take 5 or 10 minutes to
think things through and review your options before proceeding.It may well be that your intial plan is the
best option but by stopping you may notice changes in the conditions that warrant changing your plan.If
you are fishing with someone else they may have insight gained from experiences different than your
own that could help make for a successful day.

You should pay close attention to your surroundings as natural cues can be important and extremely
helpful.You should consider the total environmental package:changes in bottom content,depth,contour
of the shoreline or islands,water clarity, water velocity, water temperatue,wind direction, cloud cover or
shade to name a few.The presence of woody cover, weeds, boulders or man made objects should be
noted.You should learn to watch for the movement of forage and note the types in the area.If you learn
to see feeding activity of fish or even the flash or shadow of their movement you will benefit greatly.You
should strive to notice birds feeding over the water,bug hatches,weeds moving without the benefit of
the wind or anything that may give you a clue as to fish location or attitude. Look around you and pay
attention to plants blooming or wilting or animal activity that will be a much more reliable indicator of
similar fish behavior in the future than man's calendar.

Let's consider thinking about the fish themselves for a bit as after all that is ultimately what we are
after.Fish don't have intelligence as we know it but rely on instinct instead.Yes.you may be smarter
than the fish but they have had the best of all of us,probably more than we care to admit.Fish
instincts let them know such things as when and how much to feed,when to switch locations or
food sources and when and where to spawn.They do this as a result of changes in such things as
local climatic conditions,intensity and duration of light,temperature,seasons[theirs not ours],and
water level or clarity.There may well be other influences that we don't know or completely

There are also different kinds of fish interactions that need to be considered as well.These would be
the relationship with their prey,relationships with other species that compete for food or habitat,
relationships with fish higher on the food chain that may eat them and their relationship with man
through fishing pressure.

The presence of food may be the most important factor to consider outside of the time frame when
they are spawning.Very simply the fish that are easiest to catch are those that are closest to their food.
If these fish aren't activelly feeding than probably soon will be.If food isn't present or nearby the
gamefish generally won't stay near that cover or structural element for any great length of time.

If there is another species that can out compete the bass for food or utilize the habitat more
efficienly they will take over that environmental niche and limit the areas the bass can use. By
the same token if there are no competing species the bass can use a wider range of niches in that

When the bass are not the top of the line predator in the food chain that can limit when or where the
bass can be found or when they feed.These limitations can have a profound effect on your fishing
success. Anyone who has fished my flow can attest to the smallies shutting down when the gar
start activelly feeding.

You may not have considered man as an influence but as pressure increasesit can have much more
effect than many give it credit for.I have had the experince of heavy fishing pressue causing a shift in
the times fish become active in particular locations.In some cases it could cause fish to relocate to
less desirable but less pressured locations.Keep both of these ideas in mind the next time that the
classic bass holding spot that everyone knows and fishes doesn't produce.

With experience and time on the water you may reach the point where you have an understanding
of how fish behave in your body of water,well most of the time.The fish have a way of humbling you
if you get too cocky.I know I'll never be able to understand everything about the fish. I also know that
I wouldn't want to reach that point as it would take all the fun out of it.Would you really want to know
ahead of time what is going to happen and to catch a fish on every cast? Believing that you can do it
helps to be a better fisherman but actually doing it would be a reciepe for boredom.I'll take the
challenge presented by having something new to learn as it helps keep things fresh and interesting.

What holds us back as fisherman? How about the self imposed obstacles with which we limit our
potential.If we fail to use our senses to the fullest or not let our imagination work for us in
problem solving,we will not achieve the success we desire.Pre concieved notions of what should be
and the reluctance to reconsider those notions can hinder your success.Clinging to outdated
fishing lore and not making an attempt to educate yourself will severely limit your potential to grow
as an angler.I would also suggest taking manufacturer's claims with a grain of salt or two.We should
strive to make learning a lifelong process that allows us to continually improve our chances of

One of the more important things you can do is to figure out what makes you happy and what you
want out of your fishing expeiences.When you put your efforts into learning how to fish effectively in
in the style you are happiest with you will learn faster and retain more.If you try to be something you
are not because of what you percieve others expectations of you than that will take the fun out of it.
It is more important to make your own choices and please yourself.Now, that is not to say that you
shouldn't try to expand your knowledge by trying different techniques or methods- if you want to. It
is just that I believe you should learn what pleases you the most first.You should bear in mind that
what pleases you can change as you grow as a person and an angler.

Please realize that you will never know it all and don't get frustrated by that fact. I believe there
should never be a final limit to be reached but instead a neverending quest for knowledge to be
gained.For me, the continual challenge is what keeps things interesting. I know I have made this
point several times but in my experince it is extremely important.

Finally we should be grateful for what we have as fisherman.We shouldn't necessarily judge the
success of our trips by the size or amount of fish we catch.I believe we should enjoy the total
experience, the surroundings, the company or the solitude as well as the challenges meet and
overcome. Please just enjoy the simple fact that you could get out and fish.

Peace be unto you.
Norm Minas aka Creekyknees

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I learned many early lessons fishing CCFPD lakes and a local creek. Being young without much money, I got by with a ball head jig and plastics. The biggest thing was learning to have confidence in myself .


To all,


You can still fish year round with that simple set up on just about any local body of water and catch fish. It's fun to fish a multitude of lures, but I sometimes think that the beginners think it's necessary to do so because they see most of the experienced guys doing so . If they just concentrated on learning where the fish are , they would be way ahead of the game .

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