John Bailey: Angling is a state of mind so just try and stay relaxed

Relax. Breathe in the scent of the river and fish will come. Picture: John Bailey

Relax. Breathe in the scent of the river and fish will come. Picture: John Bailey - Credit: Archant

Last week, I was having a bother of a time down on the River Wye.

The barbel just wouldn't seem to co-operate and, once more, I was required to produce some for the film cameras.

Partly because of the weather and the water temperatures, the fish were proving reluctant and I was in a stew.

Great friend, Simon, emailed me with some simple words.

'It will all come good! Acceptance and non-resistance are the key. In the words of The Righteous Brothers, 'Take it easy on yourself.''

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I calmed down. My mental state healed. And, without a word of a lie, the barbel began to flock to the net. I'd simply taken a breath, calmed my heart rate and fished a lot more sensibly perhaps.

The whole episode took me back to the 1990–2012 period when I led many fishing expeditions around the world, especially to India.

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A close friend in those days used to stand with me at check-in and look at the guys as they prepared to board.

He used to say that you could tell at once who would be successful out in the subcontinent and which of them would struggle.

He said it was all down to their attitude and their approach. Those that were fidgety, nervous and desperate to catch fish would always struggle. Those anglers who were more laid back, more accepting and simply wanted a new fishing experience were always the ones to succeed beyond their expectations. That's how it was. Indian karma.

As an angler, you always set your stall out as well as you possibly can.

You don't take any shortcuts when it comes to your gear. The line, for example, has to be non-abraded, your hooks have to be up to the mark and your knots checked and rechecked. All this is obvious.

Your bait must be of the highest quality possible. Don't stint on cost or quantity because it will come back to haunt you. Think carefully about what you need and what the fish want and make sure you provide it.

Get your method right, of course. There is no point float fishing at two feet depth in an autumnal pit that is over 15 feet in the margins.

But I'm being insultingly obvious here. Choose your water correctly. Make sure it contains the fish that you want to catch. You won't catch your target species or specimens from places that simply don't hold them. It's worth putting in research time on this important point, naturally.

Above all, strategise. Don't rush to any water, especially a new one, feverishly eager to get your bait in the water, just anywhere. Study the lake or the river intently. Use your watercraft. Plug into your intuition. Try to see fish or signs of fish feeding. Take deep breaths and become one with the water in front of you. This isn't mumbo-jumbo. It's how successful anglers operate.

So, you've done all the hard work in many ways. You've prepped well and now is the time to follow the words of my wise friend Simon.

You relax and you enjoy the life of the waterside around you. Breathe in the scent of the morning and absorb yourself in the beauty of that blur of blue which is a kingfisher.

Rest assured you are on the right track and that your fishing is truly up to speed. Now is the time that you trust yourself to the god of the water. You wipe anxiety from your mind and replace it with trust in your own ability and what the fishing future will hold for you.

Above all, do not allow yourself to become too wound up over whether you succeed or whether you don't.

Remember, it is fishing, not catching that we enjoy. Remember that a bad day on the river beats a good day in the office. Sometimes, clichés can resonate with astounding truth.

A very last thought is this. Never, ever be jealous of another angler's catches. No-one can be king or queen of the river every single session. Accept this truth and your own turn will come more frequently and when it does, you'll find those close to you will celebrate your triumph generously and wholeheartedly.

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