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That which does not kill you...

by: Chad LaChance 2/1/2012

“That which does not kill you only makes you stronger.” It’s a pretty famous saying and it’s probably true...but it fails to address how you feel during the strengthening process. I’ll address the feeling in a single word; crappy.

Yup, I feel crappy. Two days ago I experienced my worst performance ever as an angler and I’ve felt crappy since. Can’t seem to shake it either. Tried cooking, did some reading, took the ol’ dog Bud for a swim, even spent some time in the Mancave working on tackle…nothing has helped. I can’t clear my mind of the trainwreck I became…

In my line of work, catching fish is a strong measure of performance. If I don’t catch them, I loose money. The camera guy still gets paid, the travel costs don’t go away, and people’s time is lost. That happens; it’s part of fishing for a living and I’m fine with that. But when the show guest, fishing right alongside me, does catch them and I don’t…well, that just ain’t right. I mean, really!?  I’ve spent 10 years professionally teaching people to fish through mass media, guiding, and seminars, and yet can fish right next to a guy with a similar background, who is trying his best to get me to catch them…and still endure 6 hours of fishless floundering. Oh, the horror of it!

Don’t get me wrong…skunks happen. They happen to everyone and I’d have to be pretty arrogant to think they shouldn’t happen to me. Of course they do. But like I said, the guy right next to me was catching them…in fact his fish count racked up into the mid-teens while I did everything I could do to catch one, just one, little perch. I always say the first fish is the hardest to catch and I proved myself right on this outing.

So now I’m left with the aftermath of my unraveling. After my fishing career’s biggest beatdown, I’m working towards preventing it from happening again. Analysis of what went wrong is in order…and unfortunately it’s a lot to analyze.

First and foremost, I took a fish for granted. We were fishing yellow perch - a species I’ve never purposefully fished for – which have a reputation as easy to catch. Maybe they are sometimes, but on this particular day they were not. Taking them for granted meant that I was not mentally prepared for adversity, so when I faced it, I had not previously considered how I’d adjust. To make matters worse, I was so confident in catching something so simple as yellow perch that we got a very late start and thus missed the “easy morning bite”…something my guest kept reminding me of. A few easy morning bites would have gone a long way towards my confidence and developing a feel for the fish. 

Yet another aspect of the wheels coming off was the fact that this was only my ninth day of ice fishing…ever. All of my previous outings had been successful to the point that I’d become overly confident. A major part of my over-confidence came from the fact that we were using live bait. I almost never use bait of any kind, so I always assume it will be easy when I do. I mean, wax worms for perch…that’s a no brainer, right? Not so much, apparently.

My guest had ice fished eight of the last ten days alone, and averages 75-100 days per year on ice; he knew it could be tough and how to adjust. For the record, he caught a very small percentage of what he predicted he’d catch. They really were tough this day, but he caught some and a few of them were big, too. He chastised me for being late and somewhat unprepared, which I fully deserved, and then nearly cussed me out for eating banana bread on the way to the lake. I always thought bananas were only bad in a boat, but now I know to avoid them altogether on angling days.

All jokes aside, my lack of success is most likely tied to my affliction for making fish react vs. feeding them. That works well on predator fish like trout, bass, pike or walleyes. It usually even works on timid feeders like crappie (not to be confused with crappy, which is how I still feel about the day). It does not work on cold-front perch under ice and in a negative mood, that’s for sure. The guest is a master of subtle bait movement and perfectly timed hooksets on ridiculously light bites…I know because he demonstrated it over and over right next to me.

So, I’ll face my demons, own up to my mistakes and file this one away as a day to remember…for what not to do. Humbling? Yes, but you can bet I’ll be a stronger angler the next time I hit the water.

Blog content © Chad LaChance
Member comments
IceFishingFool, CO   2/1/2012 2:18:19 PM
Good point on subtle bait movement, and how to detect those rideiculously lite bites I was telling another fisherman the same thing on a long car ride this morning. There are more factors to be considered as well, to your outing.
bluecollarguy, CO   2/1/2012 2:32:45 PM
Sounds like i need to keep my eyes open for the Fishful Thinker episode where you're ice fishing Chatfield res. proper for yellow perch huh! I still enjoy the show Chad whether you're hammering them or not.
Team Galaxy, CO   2/1/2012 2:35:00 PM
Chad...keep your head up, learn from what happened, and keep looking forward to spring. I too went out over the last 3 days. Two were skunks, and one was a seven bass day. It really questioned my abilities as an angler. I feel for ya!
Coyute, CO   2/1/2012 2:41:20 PM
Right on CL. lol. Who was the guest? Will there be a show of you getting owned or will you just scrap it? I remember the carp show and your competitive nature certainly came through - near to the point of manic - but you eventually got it done. I can say with certainty that hearing about pros enduring a polecat now and then makes us amateurs feel better about our own fishing. Stay cool.
Chad LaChance (Fishful Thinker), CO   2/1/2012 4:44:46 PM
IFF...subtle was an understatement to say the least. I can handle skunks, ''s when the guy standing right next to me catches about 15 of them while I helplessly watched that was hard to deal with. As you noted, I'm a competitive guy that takes pride in my angling. We didn't get enough footage for a full show, but we'll use it somewhere with full disclosure of my ineptness that day. In the end, honesty is all we really have, right?
not too old to fish, CO   2/1/2012 5:11:43 PM
Just to make you feel a little better and since your not an old hand at ice fishing, I've seen situations on the ice where one hole produced fish after fish and no one else in the area could get a bite. This happens once in a great while and it's very frustrating and will make you doubt your ability.
Coyute, CO   2/1/2012 5:44:11 PM
FishinPox, CO   2/1/2012 7:11:10 PM
Maybe a dumb question but...what's the big deal about bananas on a boat? Never heard that before...
Tiny Stevens, CO   2/2/2012 12:15:54 AM
Chad, While you have had many many years experience as a fisherman, and have caught thousands upon thousands of predator species, and your casting skills and line management skills are second to none, you yourself admitted that you are relatively new to the whole ice fishing experience. Like any kind of anglling, ice fishing presents you with a whole bunch more possibilities, probablilities, and a whole new way of thinking about problems and things. Don't be too hard on yourself, give yourself time to learn. Remember your first big boat? I'll bet after a dozen trips out in it, your boat handling skills were nowhere near what tthey are today! Or the first dozen times you used a baitcaster? Same scenario. You are still a top rate fisherman, and a top notch guy too boot ! Just my opinion, Tiny
BiggieSmalls, CO   2/2/2012 5:49:53 AM
The humbling sport we love? It's fishing! I hope you took something from a rare beatdown Chad. I have always tried to surround myself with anglers who are better than myself. A good butt kicking goes a long way in the learning curve of fishing.
alanlf5280, CO   2/2/2012 8:33:01 AM
I watched an episode of Hank Parkers Outdoor Magazine last night that reminded me of this article. He made a great comment. "I fish alone because I don't want to be out fished by my friend. When I fish alone, I always win."
fishingfreak, CO   2/2/2012 2:40:31 PM
Ditto on that, I've done that before bringing some banana's for a snack while fishing and no luck at all! hunting as well. WE should all keep that for the record that banana's are evil bad luck for outing.
cookster, CO   2/2/2012 4:18:25 PM
Sometimes you just have to "think" them on to the hook.
Mr.B, CO   2/2/2012 5:23:36 PM
Predict the unexpected. Its a transitional time, weather related. Cloud cover and temperature might vary. Fish are pressure responsive creatures, as people also might be... Strong is sometimes a state of mind, also. Use your barometer more and recreate the sport.
Mr.B, CO   2/2/2012 5:37:28 PM
Ice fishing might not be your place too. I went out a dozen times by myself before I got one perch. Now I avoid the species I don't want. One more year, give or take.
Mr.B, CO   2/2/2012 6:16:59 PM
You might not feel in control, being placed in one spot by another person. Use your own common sense. You'll catch more than any other time of year once you realize the relationship between fish and environment.
loopknot, CO   2/2/2012 9:22:00 PM
banana anything on a fishing day = epic fail.
pbs, CO   2/2/2012 10:11:29 PM
Good read Chad...I like to think of your experience as one that's common with most folks. I also agree with all the other replies and scenarios. My take is're the same as the rest of us....trying, but not always successful in the quest. That's how we learn and improve,right? I'm sure you've tried more than many of us, and thus...made you more successful than many of us. From watching your FT're just a regular guy like most of us, and that's a good trait to have in my book! On your show you seem to keep it real and honest with your approach to fishing local waters. I for one, couldn't ask for anything more. Keep up the good work and remember......we're all learning from YOU!!
rampage, CO   2/17/2012 7:10:21 PM
Who was your guest fisherman???? The only guy that I know that can fish like that is NATHAN ZELINSKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Salmonslayer11b, CO   2/18/2012 1:06:38 AM
Rampage, you got it wrong, I don't think there's anyone that can out fish me for panfish through the ice lol!
jelenbaas, CO   2/18/2012 2:23:23 AM
I think the important thing is that the viewers learn something from your show. I know that I learn something from each episode. I am willing to bet that even on an episode such as this "skunker" you and the guest still brought some important and useful information to the table that is going to help all of us out (as usual). You were probably sandbagging anyways. Sometimes it is nice to know that even you are still human... Also, what is the deal with bananas?
Desertsky, CO   2/21/2012 11:29:56 AM
I have found "that which does not kill you, does not kill you!" As fro making you stronger, that is debateable.
fishski303, CO   4/24/2012 12:22:07 PM
Interesting to hear this side of the story. The other side was MUCH more entertaining...Nate tells it better -)
Chad LaChance
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