Mental Fishing – The Voices in My Head Examining Self Talk

Bucks Skeeter Yamaha

MentalBlogWe all have a dialogue running through our head. Some of us have a much richer and louder internal dialogue than others. Fishing does little to silence or muffle that dialogue. Deliberate sports like fishing, golf, bowling, and hunting are like rich soil for the weeds of doubt, indecision, and low self-esteem to sprout up and grow out of control.

Directing and confronting negative self-talk is a skill that is worth developing. Every angler, even the weekend fishermen just taking his/her family out for a few hours on the water know what I am talking about. You pull up on a spot with an idea of what to do (usually because it worked last time) and in fifteen or twenty minutes without the slightest sign of a fish, the doubt and negative self-talk starts firing up.

“I can’t let the kids down. I told them this was a great spot and now this: Nothing!”

“My wife let me out of the family reunion to come fishing today and this is what I get? When do I make a move? When do I change things up and try something else? What would I try or where would I go to catch a fish?”

Usually the things of the world start to creep into what is happening on the water. I see it all the time. A bad week of work, where everything you did pretty much fell apart on you, and it won’t take much before you start thinking the same thing will happen on the water.

I call it “telling myself the truth.” I have to confront those thoughts with the truth.

You say, “Well, the truth is a stunk it up at work this week. Every important decision I made I got wrong, so it is no different on the water now!”
The truth: What you did at work has no bearing at all with what is happening on the water.

I ask you this – what good comes from doubt, fear of failure, or indecision on the water? Absolutely nothing! Nothing productive comes from those things, yet we feel entitled to have them. In total honesty, we would have to admit we almost want to have that negative experience.

I know those weeks at work or at home with the family where you just can’t do anything right. No one is happy with you. At a very deep and personal level you feel like a victim. Ask yourself this, “Just how easy is it to feel like a victim when you are fishing?” Answer: It is almost a given when you go fishing! Start with one simple fact: You will catch a fish on a very small percentage of your casts. Perhaps ninety percent or more of your efforts will result in nothing. Zero. Failure.

Refuse to give into the negative self-talk. Learn to recognize it. Learn to laugh at it. And, learn to redirect it with the truth. If idle hands are the devil’s workshop, then an unoccupied mind must be the devil’s assembly line.

Three tips for redirecting those voices in your head:

1. Talk yourself through each cast and retrieve. Mumble to yourself. Describe where you want the lure to go when you cast. Talk yourself through the retrieve. Sure, others might think you are crazy but your mind cannot run wild when you are consciously guiding the dialogue.

2. Confront negative self-talk with the truth. I call it “honest, positive truths.” For instance, two hours without a bite is not “awful.” It might be “undesirable” or “unfortunate” and it could mean “I am really close to catching a bunch of them now.” Avoid awfulizing the situation. Just calling it unfortunate changes the internal experience around.

3. Examine your self-esteem. Most of us look to please others or feel good about ourselves based on our performance. Negative self-talk feeds off of both of those. The truth is this: We are all immensely valuable creatures no matter what happens while we are fishing. In fact, fishing should have no negative impact on how we feel about ourselves at all. It is meant to be fun, therefore it should be like icing on the cake of life, not life itself.

Charles Plott, M.S. is a Performance Consultant. He brings two decades of experience helping individuals, teams, and businesses improve performance. Charles is a retired Licensed Professional Counselor, with over 20,000 hours of experience. His website is