Remember, even a bad day's fishing is better than a good day's work.
In today's age of self-aggrandisement and online oversharing, it's easy to end up drowning in images of enormous fish caught in idyllic conditions — just not by you. Insert sad-face emoji.
Pictures pop up everywhere, from Facebook posts to fishing forums. Snaps splashed all over Instagram with just-the-right-filter, even Tinder — I'm told — can be a hotbed of unsolicited fish pics.
Every scroll, click and page impression you make, it feels like everyone is having a super-terrific A++ would-trade-again experience.
Friends, family, randoms, all holding up fish in such numbers as to leave you feeling more than a little fishing inadequate. Especially as the only thing nabbed on your last trip was a warm service-station sandwich.
Hey, guess what? It's okay.
It happens to all of us.
And it's not as if anyone skites about a bad day's fishing, do they?
I was witness to an incredible burst of winter game fishing last year that perfectly demonstrated a microcosm of that FOMO [fear of missing out] fishing feeling. A migration of Southern Bluefin Tuna, an incredible event, had swept up the east coast of the North Island on to a range of trailer boats. As one commercial fisherman described it: "The most fish I've seen in 24 years of Southern Bluefin Tuna fishing!"
(As an aside, there is exciting anecdotal evidence of a rebuilding fishery that if carefully managed could become a world-class tourist attraction.)
So during a small wintery window, unprecedented numbers of game fishers descended on Waihau Bay to try their luck. One morning 112 boats headed out and the VHF radio was soon alive and crackling with the constant hoots and hollers of anglers gleefully announcing a "hookup".
As the day wore on and the radio chatter continued, the sea felt increasingly lonely as we became convinced we were the only boat to miss out on one of these fish of a lifetime.
Dejected, we headed back to the ramp. Then a funny thing happened. The first boat we caught up with hadn't caught one. Neither had the boat next to them, or any of their mates. It soon became apparent that even though it felt as if every other boat on the ocean that day had, we weren't alone. Far from it. In fact, in the pub that night there was so much commiseration that it ran out of beer.
So I guess the point of this is to offer up three things:
● Encouragement. You can have days that no matter what tricks, lures, secret potions, superstitions or stolen GPS co-ordinates you throw at it, sometimes things just don't line up and no one is exempt.
● Enjoy the bad days. Because as the cliche goes, a bad day's fishing is still better than a good day's work. There are always moments to cherish, even with an empty fish bin. Things like the bow-riding pod of dolphins you saw, or a mako shark that flipped out of the water. Perhaps a new friendship you solidified, or maybe watching your brother-in-law snap both of your favourite jigging rods (okay, that last one wasn't so funny, was it Hamish?)
● How absolutely sweet the bad days make the good. If fishing was always like the online world can falsely suggest, the shine would dull. Without the bad how can you truly appreciate the good?
I can honestly tell you that after having put in the failed effort that day in Waihau, to then head out the next morning, to hear the outrigger pop, to see the rod load up and to hear the reel start to scream, then to fight and, after two hours, finally land a true fish of a lifetime, was a feeling that made me want to go and have a bad day's fishing first all over again.
It also made it feel even better sharing that fish among more than 70 friends, families and randoms, with nothing going to waste.