On the outside looking in

The 2018 season is drawing to a close in the next few weeks. Colder, darker mornings and nights signal the end of summer as we prepare for the transition over Halloween and into winter.

Whilst there will be some opportunities for bass fishing into November and pike fishing over the winter, to all intents and purposes, the warmth of days on the river will be finished after September 30th.

It’s always a time to look back on the season gone by, and a chance to update the fishing diary with reflections and thoughts on days by the water. One thing I’ve noticed though, and this season especially, is how much of my time is spent thinking about what it would be like to be out fly fishing.

More time, this year it seems, was spent at the keyboard working or making plans, deadlines catching up and other priorities taking over.

And what I’ve found is the ‘no action creep’ setting in. The longer you’re away from the water, the harder it becomes to return. No matter how much you want to or wish it weren’t so.

I’ve no excuses — well maybe some, with three young kids and the youngest just turned one, so it’s been a busy few years of nappies, soothers and night-time feeds — but still.

The river is only ten minutes drive from me. I’m a member of the local club and can go fishing anytime I want to, able to choose from the miles of excellent river fishing available to me.

But what is it that’s been holding me back? Habit (or lack of)? Self-belief and self-confidence, lack of a fly fishing partner? Tiredness and lack of get up and go? It’s many of the same excuses that can beset us around other habits that we have to implement and practise into our daily lives from exercise to mindfulness and positive self-talk so maybe I’ve been approaching it the wrong way.

Maybe I shouldn’t expect the yearning to get up and out to just ‘arrive’ or to seep in through osmosis by way of feasting on fly fishing magazines and Instagram pictures. Maybe I need to work more on the habit-forming and the mindset and methodologies needed.

It’s not exactly a romantic way of looking at fly fishing and many anglers would be aghast at the thought that it doesn’t come naturally — but I envy those people and wish the ingrained habit came so easily.

Perhaps, though, they’ve just had a few more years than I have on habit-forming to the point of not even thinking about it. After all, the research suggests that it takes 21 continuous days to form a habit. Fishing 1–2 times a month for me is the target for me if I’m lucky and 21 days can go by without filling a rod in my hands standing in flowing waters.

Getting out fishing 21 days in a row might be a trickier to manage though. Even more depressing, more recent studies say it will actually take between 2–8 months to build a new behaviour into your life.

On the upside, ‘missing one opportunity to perform the behaviour did not materially affect the habit formation process’ the same research says.

Small Wins

‘Small wins’ is my new mantra across all aspects of my life these days. You might have a multitude of tasks in work to deal with but focusing on one at a time, in small manageable chunks is a great way to get things done efficiently and steadily.

Looking at it from a fly fishing perspective, it’s take to start seeing the longevity and a lifetime of passion for the sport that lies ahead. Rather than looking back with regrets, it’s about looking ahead at the potential.

Still though, the next season (and the ones after that) have to be about not sitting back but engaging from the start, building up momentum in the early weeks and months so that for the summer days and nights, time spent on the river becomes an automatic reflux, a part of who I am.

Is a small win, fishing once a week, twice a week, once a fortnight? Only I can judge that based on life and whether I’m still on the outside looking in.


Ireland on the Fly is about the future and tradition of fly fishing in Ireland, from the people and the places to the history and heritage. Follow for more regular updates throughout the week.