Fishing for Confidence
Contributing writer: Ruth Ann Blusiewicz
The fish don’t know it’s raining! The words of my guide were on repeat in my head as we hiked farther into the forest towards the river. I tried to pick my way down the tangled path gracefully or at least confidently, but my clunky waders and 9-foot fly rod had other plans. Go fly fishing they said. It’ll be fun they said! I snorted to myself as I arrived at the river 20 minutes later covered in mud and soaked from sweat or maybe it was the rain, I couldn’t tell anymore.
My guide pointed to the river below us. “Just hold onto that branch and slide down the bank into the water. I’ll be right behind you.” My heart sank. The river was several feet below the bank and the days’ worth of rain had made the river swell. It rushed across the rocks and to my amateur eyes looked like a small rapid that would carry me to my death. Anxiety and embarrassment flooded my body. The Michelin man looked better than me in my waders and at least he could pick up his feet! My legs were clumsy in the heavy boots. Had the guide really said slide into the river? I didn’t know how to slide! I felt like an imposter. I didn’t know how to fly fish, I wasn’t used to hiking in the rain, and my idea of roughing it was forgetting my umbrella at the beach! I didn’t belong be here!
Sensing my panic, my guide entered the river first, and helped me in. The water was stronger than I had imagined and the rocks more uneven. Holding my guide’s bookbag we waded into the middle of the stream. A few pointers on casting, and my line was out in the water in minutes. Adrenaline and a healthy dose of anxiety fueled me on. I was doing it! No turning back now! With a quick jerk, I felt my first bite! My guide yelled instructions on how to strip the line to pull in the fish. The rain pelted my face and my hands as I tried to keep my precarious balance in the water, but with shaking hands, I pulled my first brown trout out of the water.
That first fly-fishing trip was more than I had bargained for, but I also learned more about myself in four hours than I had in the 25 years before. I slid into rivers, waded across rapids, army crawled through weeds to avoid spooking fish and successfully caught a 14-inch rainbow trout! The river that day brought more than fish. It striped my ego and magnified my insecurities. But by the end of the trip, the rain stopped, and the river passed quietly around me. The stress from work, the daily grind, a two-year illness all faded as if the current had pushed them away.
It’s been a few years since my first fly fishing trip but there have been many other firsts and self-realizations since then. I reached for fishing at a time when I was unhappy with the stress of my work and my declining health. Standing in the water casting for fish connects you with nature. It stills the ever-ticking clock of progress and competition. It gives you the space to breathe. And my guide was right, “the fish don’t know it’s raining.” That day, my biggest mission was to catch a fish. And don’t we all have fish we want to catch- something we would chase through the rain to obtain. For some it’s the perfect relationship, or the highest paying job, or the next degree. And we all have rain. The obstacles that stand in our way. The obstacles we see and our insecurities that threaten to make us turn around. They’re camouflaged in daily thoughts and actions, from deleting a picture because it isn’t the right angle, or wishing you had scored as well as your classmate on a test. It’s the thoughts that I’ll never be as a good as the people on Instagram. But these are our insecurities gaining a voice in our head. Being healthy isn’t a number on a scale or the number of calories you burn in a workout. It’s not an image it’s a feeling. It is having a life that embraces growth not perfection and chases peace and confidence. Many times, the obstacles in our life exist solely in our head. Our biggest critics exist in our minds. So, the next time insecurities inside you threaten to overcome the goal ahead of you, remember “the fish don’t know it’s raining.”