Part 3

As the leaves and the temperature fall, for many it is time to put away the rods and the rest of the tackle and to do something else, perhaps even do another sport entirely. Very harsh weather may take your mind away from fishing completely as all the successes of summer become just faded memories.

Many top anglers recognise that there is no reason to switch off at any time and that peak performance demands constant monitoring and therefore continuing improvement. Yes, breaks are sometimes necessary because excessive time and effort can lead to exhaustion and to burnout. There are still some anglers though, that use other techniques to keep themselves honed mentally.

For starters, should you choose to take time out to spend some time going over the records that you’ve kept from the past 12 months. You may find that these have been kept in reasonably good order to begin with, but have since become a little short in information, so now would be an ideal time to fill in some of the blanks. Talking to fellow anglers will help you recall anything that you might have missed, and if it was a competition then the winner can be as talkative now as on the day they won, so remember to talk to them too.

No matter how well you think you did, you will from this review, still find two or three areas where improvement is still required. It isn’t enough to say that you’ll try harder because now is the perfect opportunity to schedule time to actually do it 'on the water'.

Don’t let that fool you though because you really need to structure this time to benefit you more positively. Top performers, and not just those in sport, have and still do spend more time practicing than they do actually performing, and they plan and schedule their own time to improve areas of weakness. Even now, the best are still looking to raise their 'game' in every area.

For example, you might have fished in competitions where you targetted fish on the bottom, but all the winners fished shallow. This now gives you a clear practice opportunity to go to a suitable venue, maybe even to return to the match venue, and experiment. This could be done alone or by taking along a fellow angler and watching what they do and how they do it, and discussing it with them.

When practicing and re-learning a skill the 'How' is more important than the 'Who', 'What', 'When' and 'Where', so you should encourage yourself to focus on the mechanics more than anything else. Also, you should make a conscious effort to do things differently than you would have done normally. If you go with someone, get them to watch you and ask them to comment on your technique. Spending time watching and quizzing them, so that the benefits becomes two-fold, for you AND for them.

Hopefully, you won’t catch many fish during your first practice because catching lots will give you a false impression and you may incorrectly assume that you’ve got it all sorted. As with the learning process written about in the previous article, try and do your practice over a period of time and in multiple sessions, maybe on different waters... and definitely under different conditions. Use both matches and dedicated practice sessions to gain the improvement you are seeking. Body-builders spend months and years turning weaknesses into strengths, and this proves that a larger time frame often brings greater improvement.

Before moving on, remember that specific skills are only developed from honest self-appraisal and once weaknesses are identified then help can be asked for and practice plans can be scheduled. Use any break that you take wisely, and use it to learn and to practice properly because when the sun starts warming the water again and the best weather arrives, you’ll also find yourself (perhaps) at your best.

Visualisation and mental rehearsal are both used by many athletes and sportsmen in all disciplines, golf being one of the best examples of all. Here you’ll find that all the top performers visualise how they want to hit each shot, where precisely they want it to land and on what part of the fairway or green that they want it to finish, and they do this on every shot that they take. Novice sportsmen and professional athletes have constantly demonstrated, over many years of research, that the power of visualisation in really does work.

Out of the five senses, vision or sight is the one we all have the greatest control over. If we don’t like the sight of something then we can just close our eyes, whereas if we touch, taste, smell or hear something, it is much more difficult for us to block it out. The saying 'out of sight, out of mind' is so appropriate, yet it is still very easy to build a clear picture of a person or situation that is not close to home. Trying to do this with any of the other senses will find you coming up a long way short. Over many decades of research it has been proven that the images we construct visually have massive psychological effects, especially when it comes to creating something we have never visually experienced.

Now, let’s look at how this relates to you/us as anglers. Mention visualisation to any match angler and they’ll tell you about the dream they had of standing on the top step of the podium at an international Championship. Of course, this is a dream and not a realistic aspiration, at least not for 99.9 per cent of us. Surely, it is worthwhile to see yourself winning every match that you enter, but remember that your focus must remain on the process of winning, rather than on the result.

There are many articles and papers that point to the values of mentally rehearsing and picturing specific techniques and this can be seen in sports such as basketball, golf (again) and in athletic sprint events, although it isn’t just limited to the shorter distances. As mentioned previously, these sportsmen analyse each part of their events or sports, and huge improvements are generally found in individuals who are skilled in the art of visualisation.

As a match angler, this analysis can be broken down into various parts too. Perhaps one area that could be looked at first is that of casting accuracy. Look at it more closely and you can see that casting accuracy can be broken down and scrutinised in many ways.

From a personal viewpoint, you could ask yourself a few questions. Can you cast the distances that you need to? Can you accurately land your float or feeder within a foot, or closer, of where it needs to be? Can you repeat it time after time? Now, let’s assume that you’ve paid attention to the mechanics of casting, that you physically know how it all works and that you’re well versed in being able to do it repeatedly over the course of a match. In practice, you might have found that a change of rod, line (maybe just a change in diameter) ,or just increasing or decreasing the weight of the float or feeder has given you the perfect, or almost perfect cast.

So, instead of trying to physically replicate it, spend a few moments mentally repeating a picture of the whole cast. See yourself starting the back cast, and how your arms move forward bringing the rod through smoothly and correctly. Notice the small things in greater detail each time, like the position of your finger on the reel spool and where your other hand is positioned on the rod butt. After visualising each cast up to a dozen times, pick up your rod again and restart the physical aspect of your practice. Over time, the combination of physical work and mental rehearsal should improve your technique more. Just one of these methods will do and always remember that the mental approach is as equally important as the physical one.

Moving this forward in time to an approaching match or competition, it is definitely worthwhile developing mental pictures of how you’re going to fish certain techniques on the day in question. In addition to seeing positive aspects during these rehearsal times, it is also an effective way of re-writing the mistakes that you may have made on previous occasions. Review the times that you might have had a cast go astray, or have knocked a fish off the hook with your net and then take time to see and picture the way you would have got it right. Once you’ve got the picture of the correct way to handle the situation, replay it over and over until it is a positive part of your consciousness, because it has been shown that it works on many occasions.

Be sure that visualising good techniques, mentally rehearsing your successes, recalling your best performances, re-programming your mistakes, can all be done anywhere and at any time and that they are all invaluable for progress. While you’re at it, why don’t you visualise yourself with that first place in your next match too!

I hope these features have in some way enabled you into improve your own abilities and performance ... Good Luck!