Part 2

In our first instalment I looked at two aspects of the mental approach to the sport, starting with confidence and then moving onto how we set goals, and ultimately make headway towards making them a reality. This time, I want to look at two other areas: how to learn and use information that we get from other anglers, followed by a brief look at some of the rituals, routines and superstitions that many of us may have.

The first half of being successful is how the styles and methods that you need to  used are executed. Secondly, and more importantly, is how information is acquired, stored, retrieved and utilised. When we think about the basic information we need, or wish that we had, wouldn’t it be great to be able to tap into the mind of someone else who already has the experience and knowledge to bring us success. Could the mind of Will Raison, Alan Scotthorne or any number of other top anglers help out I wonder? Probably, but that’s not the way to learn anything for yourself. What we all have is the ABILITY to learn and store knowledge, essential tools needed in the pursuit of success.

The learning process itself starts by deciding WHAT YOU NEED to know. Here is where you can apply some of the aspects from the previous article on goal setting. First, list your six best fishing talents and then three, or four, areas that you (perhaps with the help of a fishing buddy) feel are weak in and therefore in need of improvement... and be totally honest. Next, pick one of your weaker areas and list all of the factors that are necessary for you to make it one of your strong points. Include things like which type of rod, what size of reel, what line diameter and any other dimension that you believe matters, even down to the ratio between hook size and bait. Now choose which one of these components requires more knowledge or expertise on your part. Think about where you can find books, magazines, articles or even videos/DVD’s on the subject. Once you’ve found the information, you need to make a note of any recurring aspects.

Next comes the more difficult bit. Take yourself off to a suitable venue and commit yourself to spending time experimenting with this newly acquired information. Don’t rely on trying to remember all of the things that you want to try out. Take your notebook with you and write down what you discover. By doing this two or three times, you’ll soon find a pattern emerging and the information will start to mean something to you. Tackle each component for improvement as a small chunk and begin to piece it all together, becauses learning it in parts is much more productive than if you try to learn it all at once.

It’s very important and beneficial, to write down everything as it happens, after each session or competition. The right way to do this is to make a note of what you want to keep track of beforehand, this in turn will make the learning curve much easier to understand, and, much more complete. Relying on a tired mind or loose memory after a hard day on the bank isn’t always best, as something is always forgotten.

An ability that everyone should possess, is how to recognise the difference between good and bad information. One of the harshest realities when you’re compiling information is how facts and conditions change, often from day to day. A prime example is when the wind direction does a complete U-turn and blows from the other direction within a week, a day or even within the time that you are on the bank. Conditions aren’t the only things that fluctuate constantly. Fish, by their very nature, move around and are often spooked by bankside disturbances, as well as varying their feeding times according to highs and lows in both air and water temperature. Recognising and being able to adapt to these possible risks on any given day is a major asset, as yesterday’s solid information could be totally worthless within 24 hours.

Before I move on, remember these wise words. You can NEVER know everything, so if you focus on learning then you may catch more fish, but if you focus solely on catching fish, then you may stop learning!

So, with all of the information, influences and variables, coupled to the plethora of equipment we use, there's plenty of room for things to upset us and our plans. 'Smart' anglers will often apply certain routines, rituals or superstitions to help them here, and these will also help add some order and stability for each angler on the day.

From a practical viewpoint there are several areas that can be handled best by using structured routines. Using your notebook and a calendar you can construct a schedule for making new tackle purchases and for maintenance of current tackle items. As you plan for a forthcoming event you can schedule in an evening for sourcing information (remembering what has already been written), one evening for tackle preparation, and finally one for making sure that all of your bait is in top condition.

Have you ever sat on the bank thinking about the preparations you should have made, because you now know it’s too late. Of course you have, it often brings on feelings of negativity and doubt, which you shouldn't be having!

In your notebook, write down every practical dimension of preparing for a trip, such as the time it takes to get to the venue. Ask yourself if you need to tie any more rigs or hook-lengths and finally, what baits you may need to take on the day. List any other priorities, such as family or personal commitments, that may cause distractions to your preparation. Once documented, you should feel safe in the fact that (and confident) that none of them will be overlooked. As well as gaining this extra confidence, you’ll not be wasting any nervous energy worrying and wondering 'what if?'.

It's equally important to also develop a good mental routine, to be able to maximise your performance, which many athletes and other sportsmen might ignore. Try to find some time, two or three times a week, to read and review the goals that you set yourself during the first article in this series. You could also use this time to visualise recent successes and re-affirm the positive thoughts that these brought you. You should always end this time with a positive statement.

Many successful sports people use contemplative rituals such as reading and meditation, and research indicators show that these individuals are better emotionally than those that don’t use them. It also gives them improved concentration levels, less anxiety about competition and greater self-assurance, which are all factors that increase confidence.

You might also have more (seemingly) mundane rituals such as what you have for breakfast or making sure that you’re wearing your favourite hat/shirt or item of underwear. Historically, clothing and people have gone hand in hand in many sports, with some individuals choosing to wear the same item of clothing for a number of days. Just remember though, that it isn’t always about the shirt!

However, not all rituals and routine behaviours are psychologically healthy. It can be difficult for some individuals to recognise when those past behaviours which have previously worked, are no longer useful. When people start questioning any of your routines or behaviour, maybe it's time to take a closer look at yourself and think about adapting them. Obsession and compulsive behaviours cause distraction and waste valuable energy, which can be better channelled elsewhere. For the most part, routines and rituals can help decrease ambiguity and indecisive areas while allowing you to concentrate more on those variables that can’t be controlled or predicted.

Next time I’ll be covering how to use practice and pleasure sessions effectively, I’ll also be taking a look at the subject of visualisation and mental rehearsal.