Anyone that has ever taken up fly-fishing will know this well.  Failure is going to happen and you have a choice to make.  Do you learn from it or allow it to be what defines you?  I have failed many times over the years as I learned this sport and after each failure I learned valuable lessons that I kept with me during each outing.  For instance I never used to improve my clinch knots and that was not a problem when I started and only caught a few small fish.  This is a simple step of passing the tag end of the line back through a loop that you just made making it much more stronger.  I will always remember the time that I hooked into a very large fish that jumped once and the knot just let loose.  This was the last time that I did not take the extra step to improve my knots.  I even remember the fly I was using was an oversized golden stone nymph.  Now tying my tippet to my fly always ends with an improved knot.

If catching a tree was the plan, it was a successful trip!

Failure is what keeps most anglers coming back for more.  It was not without many failures that I began my quest for a salmon on a fly rod.  I had seen it done many times by watching others, but it didn’t click for me right away.  I even went to the East Outlet of the Kennebec with my brother-in-law as a teacher and as a demonstration he made a few false casts and soon enough he had a nice salmon on his line.  It just seemed so easy, but at the time I never thought of all the time and effort that he put into the sport before that moment.  Away I went swinging my fly rod with very little luck or grace for that matter.  The failures kept adding up, but I kept pushing forward always looking to improve.  I knew what I wanted and I was not going to be denied.

All you need is one

However, it was through these early failures that I learned what not to do and even to this day I remember the small nuances that only come with time and practice.  I also practiced as often as I could on the lawn during the summer and during the winter for that matter.  I would cast to targets that I would choose and wouldn’t stop casting until I could hit that target whenever I wanted.  Sometimes it would be my brother or father walking by.  Moving targets are more fun anyway (note: there were no hooks on the end of my line while doing this).  Putting time in to practice is something that I think anyone that wants to get into the sport really needs to focus on.

Push through until you find what you want.

Even to this day the failures that I experience help me be a better angler overall and keep me thirsty for more.  For me it is certain bodies of water that challenge me.  For whatever reason these waters present a challenge that requires a little more time and thought than others.  It is only through putting in the time and feeling defeat a few times before it begins to click.  Then I build on those successes and keep the failures in mind until it all comes together.  Even with the success there will always be failures and that is ok.  I remember a trip where a client accidentally hooked the other client in the boat with her fly during her forward cast.  There were a few words between the two and I could see that she was going to let it affect her and she put her fly rod down.  All I said was “everyone has done that while fly-fishing so keep casting and focus on catching a fish.”

Putting it all together feels good

This brings me to my final point.  Fishing in general is a great life lesson for anyone.  Success does not come easy and you have to put in the time and effort if you want something.  Failure is not a bad thing as long as you learn from it and move on and do not dwell on those failures.  When you do that you will be able to achieve your goals.

This salmon came after many failures, but keep going as you never know when this will happen

Jon Peterson

About Jon Peterson

I grew up in the small town of Sebec, Maine, wandering in the woods exploring the natural world around me. I had always been fascinated by water and my explorations seemed to lead me to water as that was where I felt most comfortable. Through trial and error, I honed my fishing skills over the years and learned many valuable lessons along the way. In 2014 I realized my dream and became a Registered Maine Guide. For more information: