By Nick Simonson
I’ve never been a slow guy. Slow on the uptake maybe, but never one to just sit around and wait for things to come, or fish to bite, or birds to appear. I’ve been a walker, talker, doer type with more natural (and thanks to coffee, unnatural) energy than I can manage on some days. While that part of who I am has helped create some very successful times in the outdoors, that nature has gotten the better of me a number of times too.
Rushed shots, overlooked areas of ideal upland habitat and the passing over of pieces of water that only years later I would learn held the same – if not better and closer – angling are just some of the examples of where my quickness has backfired. Of all the virtues, patience has been the one that has been hardest for me to grasp and in recent months and seasons, is the one I’ve worked hardest on to make a bigger part of my life and hunting and fishing activities.
Moments of patience are both small and big in the outdoors. Take, for example, topwater fishing for bass. The rapid swish-swish-swish of a Heddon Spook worked across the water is that quick action which pulls bucketmouths in for a bite. Certainly worked the way I do it the rapid retrieve provides that 180-beats-per-minute rhythm that suits my life and style of angling. The hookset on such a lure, however, requires a split second of patience, a small moment for the logical brain to log in, check out what’s going on and override that instinctive “fight-or-flight” adrenaline junkie in our ancient brain, then count to two, and set the hook when the fish has the lure firmly in place. Waiting that extra second means success. Not doing so means just a cool explosion on the water’s surface.
That same surface often gives up its secrets with a little more patience. I’ve stared at streams for five or ten minutes before even laying down a cast in order to pick out the rings of a rising trout. I’ve watched the riffles and eddies around rocks on repeat to pick up the places where smallmouth might be holding, and what the disruption of the surface downstream might signal in terms of a scour or deeper staging spot where walleyes may be lurking. In the early light of dawn, before even loading the boat, I’ve stared from the dock across glassy summer lakes to watch the first movement of birds and other wildlife and turned my gaze to the western horizon to determine how those activity levels and what the weather holds will influence my fishing.
Finally, in seasons like this one where the waiting continues across much of the region for spring to do its thing, patience and preparation become a tougher lesson, but have produced readiness for a new stage in the outdoors which is unmatached in recent memory. I already see the dividends in multiple boxes full of hand-tied flies and jigs that I know I probably wouldn’t use in three summers worth of angling, but also realize I won’t have to tie up next winter or maybe even the following one. I see a well-put-together Clay Target League team taking its first shots of the season, despite banks of snow still on the ground. I see a wall full of rods and reels ready to go, restrung and set for a shorter spring season but one that should provide some incredibly fast action. All of this preparation will pay off when the season starts in earnest.
And all of these lessons transfer over to life. They are seen in the smarter brain jumping in and overriding the caffeine-fueled caveman brain that wants to yell at someone for something petty. The moment or two in the morning (before that coffee kicks in) where I lay out my to-do list and plan my day, instead of jumping around from thing-to-thing in a reactive nature later on. The moment where my four-year old wants to play baseball, but the backyard is covered in snow, so I suggest tossing a soft football in the basement, or playing with his plastic basketball hoop will help keep him active and ready for when spring training finally arrives in the region and he can swing his oversized plastic bat safely in the yard.
While I’m nowhere near perfect yet, and still go-go-go much of the time while hunting and fishing, my rush is becoming more tempered with the wisdom and preparedness that has come with the purposeful waiting and attempts at mindfulness that are so counter to who I am at my core. Whether almost-instantaneous, short-term or long-term, the patience learned these past few years through new and changing hunting and fishing activities has helped make me a better person, not only at work and at home, but also in our outdoors.