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It's Okay to be Frustrated

We all dream of days fishing where it's the first time in a long time, and all the stars align, you have all the time in the world, the sun is shining warm on your face, and the fish begin to rise near you. You quickly tie on your favorite flies, and with gleeful excitement cast into the river and wait for a quick hook up…

But what happens when nothing bites? You keep casting, and still nothing. The fish are rising even more, you change flies, you try everything you’ve got, but still nothing is biting – all day.

This happened to me recently, and I’ll be honest, I started to get really frustrated.


For a long time, I thought being frustrated while fishing was something inappropriate, like a John McEnroe temper tantrum, being so serious in something like fishing seemed immature, and even outlawed in the etiquette of fishing. How could I be so unhappy doing my “favorite thing”? You constantly see and hear about the picturesque, the success, the ideal in fishing, and you never hear about the hours of turmoil one endures to get a single fish to bite. The feeling of frustration is something I constantly battle while fishing.

There is a thin line between caring and caring too much. I think, I am somebody who easily cares too much. While this has been very helpful tool in learning new skills, ambition on new adventures, and long endurance – its downfall tends to be a removal of joy in the process. Like any good athlete but said best by Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights, “if you’re not first you’re last” reigns supreme in my brain. I dance the line between excitement and broken expectations that come crashing down.

I used to try to keep in my frustration in while fishing. I would tell myself “it just doesn’t matter” or “I should be thankful for just being out on the water” but that feeling of frustration really starts becoming visible in my mood, and I have a voice in my head that comes up and says “well, if you aren’t enjoying it then you shouldn’t be doing it at all”.

But then I learned that it’s ok to be frustrated. I thought of skateboarders who scream and break their boards when they are trying to land a new trick -- or a golfer who throws their clubs into the pond after a mentally grueling round. So often, we are told to suppress that feeling, and ignore it, but then I learned that it’s ok to care.

Frustration is the fuel -- It’s the passion to the sport. Without frustration the sport becomes the manicured, curated like a green lawn– but overtly boring. The more you care, the more you are going to be frustrated. Don’t deny it, allow it. Allow yourself to care. It’s the first pillar in Buddhism, “life is suffering”. Life is suffering because you want it to be different – you care enough to say something isn’t right. And in fishing if you didn’t want it to be different, you might not ever get better at fishing or simply you might just hike along a river instead. Somehow caring puts the soul into fishing, and all the emotions, the bad days, the rain, the long walks, the snags, the skunks will sneak their way into the best stories – because those are the places you learn life lessons from.

So, let those cuss words fly, scream loud, kick a rock, take a break, (hopefully don’t snap your rod) but do whatever you need to do to let the frustration out for yourself, just don’t give up. The fish will bite at some point and all hope will be restored, but don’t let your frustration stay inside of you to turn things sour. Don’t let the frustration steal your joy.

Acknowledge when you are frustrated and say it’s ok, and then keep moving (and maybe drink another beer while you are at it). You're day will get better... or maybe tomorrow.

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