Overcoming the Fear of Failure

As seen in our September 21, 2023 Newsletter – Subscribe Here

I no longer live in trout country where I grew up. This has created a void in my fishing hobby, as learning how to fish a new species is more intensive than I had originally planned.

I live in the Midwest now. It has a lot of perks, but fishing for trout is only something that happens during the colder months of the year when they stock the lakes. So for now I am focused on chasing bass and carp.

Carp in my mind have always been seen as a trash fish. One the GFW crew has historically joked about it being our fall back if we can’t pull together accommodations. We can always just “go fish Mud Suckers in the South Platte River out behind Elitch Gardens, I guess.” Clearly I have been brought up on thinking they weren’t worth chasing.

But now I am sitting here, craving come sort of fishing high, and I find myself staring down the barrel of desperation. Never-say-never I guess.

Turns out I shouldn’t have ever written these Pond Pigs off. As I have begun to research carp, I have learned that they are affectionately referred to as the “Golden Bonefish” due to their allusiveness and the challenge it takes to bring them ashore.

First off, they are apparently very smart fish. The parent species of many people’s favorite Koi fish, these fish are very aware of their domesticators as well as their predators. Sneaking up on them is a challenge as they spook very easily and are aware of what predator behavior looks like. Bad metaphor: Apparently they are like women, and find you more interesting/safe when you act like you don’t care. Maybe they will be my kryptonite fish after all.

Fishing for Carp is mainly a sight fishing exercise. While it is possible to fish for them similar to trout by blindly floating flies through their feeding columns, it appears that when fishing for carp you have to wait to see where they are actively feeding and then cast to a “dinner plate” sized area directly in front of them… All without doing a lot of false casting over head or smacking the water with your line when you cast. Guess I am going to get better at roll casting.

Many people chase carp for the fight. Known for being a big fighter, and quickly pulling you into your backing, they say it is one hell of a battle. While the advice I have read/watched has been anything other than unanimous, they all have recommended having a good drag system. I am typically a 3wt trout fisherman in order to get a little extra fight out of the fish, so I am looking forward to battling some golden bones.

Landing the carp is another story though. Apparently they are notorious for a “just when you have them within reach, they haul ass” final run. Suggestions I have gotten for this is a slightly shorter leader, so that when you do that “max wing spread thing” we do as fly fisherman when trying to net a fish, you have a little bit better access to them. We shall see. Hopeful advice, in that I am hopeful I will even get to this point.

There is plenty of other advice I have come across, like strip set the hook rather than trout set, use fly patterns that sit on the bottom like crawdads, and others that aren’t worth getting into here. But it has shown me what it feels like to be a beginner again in stark contrast to my mediocre trout skillset.

I am asking loads of questions I never really asked during trout fishing. Reading lots of videos (if that is even a thing) and trying to pick up all the advice I can. I have been into the local fly shop to get some advice and spend money on a whole new fly box arrangement. I have adjusted my gear according to everything I have learned and began to look at maps of the area. If there was military reconnaissance I could pay for, I probably would. But why…

I sit here writing this, not yet having ever stepped foot in the carp’s home water, and it hit me — I am afraid of being judged by the swarms of onlookers from the shores that I picture in my mind. I am afraid of looking like a beginner. I am afraid of failure.

This is no way to go through life. But we all do it. Constantly. If there was a description of the “steady state” of humans, it would be “performing all activities as if we are experts, in avoidance of failing or looking like we don’t know how.” Researching all the potential problems without ever trying the task is no recipe for success. I could go in the fly shop six more times, but that won’t catch me a carp.

I have to get on the water. Probably won’t catch anything, and that will be ok. I will come back here and write about it. Somehow shamelessly telling you about my failure. A weird juxtaposition to the need to not have anyone see me fail. Maybe because it is on my terms? Who knows.

But this is the advice I give myself in any new endeavor:

“Just get on the water.”

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