These last couple of weeks, I’ve felt a whirlwind of emotions. A dab of homesickness, a splash of not feeling good enough, a sprinkle of self-doubt, a twinge of disappointment. Basically, the recipe for a quitter.
West Virginia left me feeling really pressured to just do better, be better. I left feeling like maybe this lifestyle isn’t meant for me after all. Even though I really want it to be. I considered even looking for other journalism jobs online and giving that 9-5 desk job a try after all.
A lot of that pressure stemmed from not being able to hook a fish in West Virginia, especially after watching everyone around me catch fish. It also came from feeling like I was a burden to Rob. Every time I try something new or have a problem, he has to take time away from fishing/editing to guide me or help me. I found myself feeling really out of place and unable to accept my small failures as what they were.
I needed Kentucky to be different.
Our first (and only) day of fishing was a hard one. Chase, our guide for the day, had recommended Elkhorn Creek as a great spot to float and catch Smallmouth bass. Our last creek float, in West Virginia, I got skunked. Between the mini-rapids and fast moving water, casting and landing a fish wasn’t easy.
But Kentucky was different.
I went into the float more determined and more confident than the last one, knowing that I was capable of keeping up and catching a fish. I think it helped that Chase wasn’t super experienced with kayaking and I felt like we were equal and in this challenge together.
By the days end, Rob had caught a handful, Chase had caught one or two and I hadn’t caught any. Seven hours and I had hooked up once, but I really don’t count it because Rob cast for me.
A couple days prior, when we were leaving WV, I had mentioned that I didn’t catch a fish in the state. And Rob responded that if I had just been persistent and not given up when it got hard, I probably would have caught one.
Going into this float, I made sure that I got the filming done early so I could focus all of my time and attention on catching a fish. I was determined. As the take out came into view, I was feeling really discouraged (and super hungry) so I put my rod down and decided to just call it quits for the day. Ordinarily, I would accept the failure as it was and sulk for the rest of the day. But instead, I picked up the rod and paddled over to the other side of the creek where I threw a few more casts and finally hooked up on a very small Smallmouth bass. I got it to the kayak, lifted it out of the water and it immediately fell of the hook.
I was angry, swore a handful of times but felt motivated because at this point, I had hooked into a fish on my own. Why couldn’t I do it again? The sun was setting but my adrenaline was high as I made my way under the bridge. At this point, I could see the truck and I knew I was running out of time but I kept pushing and finally landed a Largemouth, and the second largest fish of the day.
I have never been more proud of myself. Not when I conquered my anxiety. Not when I flew alone for the first time. Not when I graduated college. This. This moment right here is where I found myself being over-the-moon excited for myself. Because I persisted. I kept going. I didn’t give up even though it would be the easier option. I didn’t accept my defeat. I just felt like I earned this. There truthfully wasn’t a second in the day when I stopped fishing. Maybe here and there to drink some water or take a bite of my granola bar but even when I was chewing, I threw my line out. I stayed patient, I stayed persistent, I stayed focused and I persevered.
Such a little accomplishment but it meant so damn much to me. My mom always told me that I am the self-satisfying type of person. Even when I graduated college, everyone made such a fuss over it and I sat there thinking to myself, “this really isn’t a big deal.” I did what I was supposed to do, I went to school, I got my degree in four years and I did it by 22. But then what? I have a piece of paper saying I did something? That wasn’t enough for me. Feeling like my hard work paid off, like it did with this Largemouth, was enough. A feeling I will never forget and the most rewarding fish I have ever caught (for now).
Such a good lesson in not giving up. One more cast, one more paddle, one more bait. You never know what the next fallen tree has hiding underneath its branches.