My first Alaskan fishing trip, earlier this month, was an incredible experience, but from the very start I was painfully aware that this was a totally different world than what I was used to. I felt uncomfortable until I learned some things.
I’m used to running my own boat, being the guide and making all the decisions. So when I started fishing with equipment I wasn’t used to and learning techniques in conditions that weren’t second-nature, my feeling of looking and/or doing something stupid overwhelmed me for awhile.
I got to see how guests must feel when they are fishing with me! None of us really wants to appear to be an idiot, but I was kind of feeling that way, especially when I asked our captain about my problem using a right-hand level wind reel: “Uh, I have this problem with using right-handed reels, it’s kinda backwards for me … is there possibly a left-handed reel onboard?” I meekly asked. “Nope, I don’t have any!” was the quick answer. (“We don’t usually have weird guys like you on our boat!” was what I heard.) OK, then I was going to tough it out – even if it was messing my brain up.
Hold pole in left hand, reel with right, I told myself. I felt like I was fishing with boxing gloves on! My brain was making my hands move in ways I didn’t want them to. Add in the factor of trying really hard in unusual surroundings, and my anxiety index went through the roof.
In addition, I felt that I was lowering their opinion of my fishing skills with what I was doing (and not doing) and that this must be obvious to them.
I decided that being humble and trying to learn all I could was probably the best thing I could do. Ask questions, listen, then execute if possible. My regular instincts kept getting in the way, but things were improving. Drop your weight all the way to the bottom, barely touch down and reel up a few winds. When a fish hits, wait, don’t set the hook! Let him take it, reel down until tight, then put some lead into a good pump. Boy, I really wanted to set the hook in the beginning!
One time, early in the trip, I was bringing up my mooching rig with a 6-ounce weight and the captain was trying to catch the rig to rebait it for me. Before I knew it, I had reeled up too far and while trying to let it back down for him, it swings around and hits him in the head. I’m mortified! He grabs the rod, looks at me intently (“Is this guy going to listen or not?”) and gently shows me how far down to reel up the weight before bringing it on board.
Later on they got me a left-handed reel, and my world improved. By now I had also quietly decided that it was a good idea not to go into much detail about my guiding background. I needed to do more listening and less talking – and besides, it’s tough to get that insole out of your mouth after you’ve stuck it in too far. I was beginning to relate to how my guests must feel when I take them out. I tell them to relax, but like me I think most anglers are anxious and concerned about doing things right. It was a new perspective for me
Getting over my anxious feeling to the point where I could become functional and relax was a defining moment for me. Listening, being patient, asking questions, and “never giving up” helped me work through it all and finally come out successful.
Never give up!