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Waiting It Out

In the second of his series on the experience of fishing, Jim Hendrick goes through a dark night of the soul.

I

waited it out. I had to, inevitable as it was. There was no other choice. Simple really, the days turned to weeks, the weeks to months and then months turned to years. I did stop believing it would happen and there was, of course, increasingly regular moments of doubt as time gathered and cluttered my thoughts of ever getting it done. The longer it went on the more reasons I began to find for not doing it. I began to believe my life was too removed, too complicated, too far from the possibility of completion and as I tried to regularly validate the challenge and the positive possibilities of developing any new fishing. I also, more frequently, pretended to myself it was damn near impossible to achieve. I was investing more belief and time in the impossibility of getting it done the further I stayed away and avoided the challenge of the fishing. I did this because I began to convince myself, of the many crazy reasons I conjured up, that I didn’t need to stretch myself

again, I wasn’t good enough to do it for myself, I was getting lazy. But there was something else too, something deeper that ran differently. I had thought I was avoiding the complications around trying to find the fishing, getting there, accommodation, the costs, weather, tides, the usual challenges and countless, thankless hours of trying something new, trying to figure it all out. That was only the first part – trying to achieve this and then to present it responsibly as a marketable option to the world on a fishing guide’s budget, well that was just another challenge. I had always worked out my own fishing, always by myself. I thought – “To hell with it this!” The simple fact was I was avoiding myself and the truth, and when both were confronted, I realised that I didn’t feel like doing it at all. It took me another incredibly difficult season (2012) to realise I was tired in my fishing soul, my spirit was lagging. This was an emerging and a new challenge for me.

Had I reached an end of something? And then somehow through the gathering debris and dust of 34 months of false excuses, diminishing hope, lost patience and confidence, I managed to shake off the building creeping inertia and clear a path to the endgame. This ‘inertia’ had a lot to do with many things, loss of confidence, three seasons of many cancellations, absent fish, resulting financial instability and the sheer difficulty faced by the loss of any forward angling momentum, especially in the falsehood created that everybody else seemed to be having a whale of a time and bass were running the coasts in their multitudes. The ‘loss of momentum’ was the biggest challenge. Any guide is only as good as the last happy customer experience. Customers are happy for different reasons; new technique, improved casting, any significant sense made of the angling environment, but generally a lot of it has to do with the actual fishing. The quality of

the fishing for at least the last three seasons in Wexford was on a sliding scale of deterioration and culminated in 2012 with what I can only consider a complete disaster. With weather patterns following a dreadful trend and fish simply not appearing on the coast the majority of the time, gaining any ‘go forward’ was extremely difficult. When the fishing is easy the job gets a little easier. When the fishing is tough you give more, try more, work harder to make it happen. I was tired from trying to make it happen; giving more and more when I knew it wasn’t there. I lost any sense of achievement and rather than mess the whole thing up I simply stopped a lot of the time. I was losing my fishing/guiding self. As a fishing guide you always need to be a year ahead all of the time to make it work, I was reduced to mere days. Out of a dark, wet and miserable July afternoon in 2012 I got a phone call from someone I knew from my old IT past. The last

74 Irish Angler July 2013

July 2013 Irish Angler 75

General

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Coarse

Sea

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Coverstory

‘Any guide is only as good as the last happy customer experience.’

timeI had spoken to James was somewhere around spring of 2003, 10 years ago, just before I started guiding. He had an opportunity for me and wondered would I be interested. I met with James and we discussed what he needed. He needed my IT/ERP/Training skill set basically. He wondered if I could start right away! I had commitments of course through to October and both Peter (plant manager) and James knew this, but could I give him something? I could of course but I needed to be careful for my customers, for James, and for myself. It would be a lot to juggle – sometimes you have to do these things and James was willing to wait, take what he got and then, when the season finished, I would be totally immersed from October in an old and yet strangely new world of ERP system implementation. I cannot convey the sense of relief I felt at that opportunity.

Here was something that would stem the flow of many things running out through many holes. It was time to slow down and take stock to think differently. I fell into a simple routine and worked hard for many weeks through to Christmas and beyond. I was also into year three of my Tourism BSc degree so I kept my head down and focused. I moved my attention from the fishing, I let it go a little – it was good for my fishing soul to see it drift away in the tide of my mind, for a while at least! Strangely through the recent months I have found it did no harm at all. I was plunged into a world I had forgotten about and had long given up. A forgotten world of efficiency, targets, performance, on-time, lean, sigma, kaizen, 5s, all rigid all strict all exact and demanding of people. And I re-learned something. Here I was back in an environment I had left 10 years earlier I met the same people doing more

or less exactly the same things in the same place as if nothing had changed. These people were stronger than I was, braver and more realistic in their ways. It took something for a person to remain deeply committed to a job and a place for 10 years or more – I know what that feels like and what it can do to you too. So I healed both my real and imagined wounds, stopped feeling sorry for myself and after months of spending time behind many computer terminals, meeting many people, missing many deadlines, my mental fishing tide began to rise and the urge to go fishing, to get fishing again, to be out there in it, came back slowly. It grew steadily and steadily but it grew in a different way – it now had more personal patience for precision and time than it ever had but it also had less tolerance for angling bullshit. It had a contained urgency. I had healed my fishing spirit through freeing it and feeding it,

reading to it, through eight recent months of captivity and rest. I couldn’t but help to compare my last eight months of life to the 10 years of great, tough and unbelievable Irish guiding coastal experiences I have shared with many people. I shared some of these times with the people I worked with the time flew and then suddenly it was February and it was time to let the spirit out for a while. I went sea trout fishing with Brian and a new friend in a new world – to adventure a little. I was released into the cold bright sun and wind of a late winter day casting flies into a rip at the shore. Suddenly it was all right and after all these months it was done, and very quickly in the end. And now my spirit is free again and stronger somehow and 2014 lies before me and some things have changed and some things are more valuable than ever!

76 Irish Angler July 2013

July 2013 Irish Angler 77

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