I want you to close your eyes, breathe deeply, relax and envision something. (After you’re through reading this, of course, but here’s the basic screenplay for the movie you’re about to play in your mind…)
It’s a gorgeous day, and you’re soaking it all in. The birds are chirping; there’s a thin layer of clouds above, yet the air is warm (not hot) and a gentle, steady breeze is lightly puffing over your left shoulder (if you’re left-handed, it’s puffing from the right).
You’re standing on the bank of your favorite river or stream. The water is cold and clear, and the flow is perfect. You have your favorite rod and reel in hand. You’re scanning the surface of the water looking for Big Bertha (you’ve named it)… the big trout you just know must live in that run somewhere, but it rarely shows itself. You’re in no hurry.
Suddenly, you see the subtle rise… first the snout pokes up through the surface, and then like a porpoise, the fish rolls back beneath. You guess it’s at least a foot between the nose of that fish and its dorsal fin.
You carefully climb into the river, eyes locked on the spot where it rose. Slurp… there it goes again. You steal a glance toward the sky and notice a cloud of mayflies, like tendrils of smoke wisping above the water.
You have the exact ticket—the perfect fly pattern—stuck in the brim of your hat. You weren’t just hoping this hatch might happen; you were expecting it to happen.
Gloop… another rise, just to the right of the last one.
With steady hands, you tie the fly to the tippet, add a dab of grease, wipe it off on your shirt sleeve, give it a quick puff, and drop it into the river. Eyes forward, watching… waiting… you strip out some line, letting some fall toward your feet, hanging on to the rest in loose coils.
There again… this time a little left. The foam on the water forms a hard seam just to the right of where you last saw the fish. There are a few natural bugs riding that seam like tiny little sailboats.
You wind up… one false cast (only one!) off to the side helps you mete out the right length of line. The line shoots and slices through the air like a hot knife through butter. On the next forward stroke, you stop the rod, looking right over your thumbnail at the target zone. The leader fully unfurls, and the fly gently drops onto the surface, right where you wanted it.
Right where the fish would be looking for it.
Another rise… unmistakably to eat your fly. You don’t just see it happen, you hear it, like a little wooden box snapping shut.
A micro-second pause—cool as a cucumber, you are—then a gentle lift. Heavy tension… angry head shakes… a searing run across the current… reel music.
What happens after that… well, that’s up to you. Every angler has a different perfect ending.
There are two reasons I wanted to share that.
First, in a day and age when so much of what you read online is dedicated to making you angry, starting arguments, causing you to wonder if the sky is falling, and otherwise chafing you like wet long johns in leaky waders, there’s nothing wrong with going to a happy place, at least in your mind, at least for a few minutes. Your work colleagues will understand.
And second, if you get in the habit of positive visualization—something I try to do with different fishing scenarios at least once a day… seriously—I guarantee that your odds of actually seeing the fish and making that perfect cast in the real-life moment of truth will go up exponentially.
We ultimately fish the way we see ourselves fishing.