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Fight, Flight or Freeze?

Guest Blog by: Alan Peak 1/12/2013
Everyone always talks about the power of confidence and positive thought.  There is no doubt this is a very important piece of the puzzle when having a successful day on the water.  I believe one mental game that is just as important but overlooked is the adrenaline reaction.  Fight, flight or freeze.

Adrenaline will make your body do some crazy things.  Your blood vessels will constrict in some places while widening in others.  Your pupils will dilate and you may see in tunnel vision.  Your heart will race, your breathing will quicken.  Nutrients and glucose will pour into your system.  All of these responses are getting your body ready for a fight or flight mode.

I do see some crazy adrenaline induced reactions to large fish.  We are all guilty of it.  Mostly while the trophy fish is just using its flight reaction, anglers often fall into the fight or freeze category.  Normally it starts with spotting a trophy fish.  This starts the bodies reaction, getting ready to dump adrenaline into your system.  The instant that huge fish bites it is game on for your central nervous system to go caveman style and cloud all sound judgment. 

Symptoms you ask?  My favorites are the "hookset from hell" and the "scared stiff" reactions.  I see these most often.  It may also be common to get the tunnel vision and not realize your fish is about to wrap itself around an object a few feet away.  Over fighting a fish and not allowing a drag to peel out also happens too.  I am sure we can all relate to a few of these!!

Can you remember that giant fish that got away just like it was yesterday?  Think about it.  You remember exactly what he looked like, where he was, how far he took your line and what you caught him on.  Adrenaline is known to enhance memory.

So how do you stay cool as a cucumber?  Breath slow and deeply.  Do not rush to the trophy fish, take your time.  Before casting to a lunker, plan everything out first so there can be little surprises.  Think about which way the fish is going to go and how you are going to react to it.  Look for hazards and how to avoid them.  Check your drag and use it to its fullest extent.

It is my belief that you have a magical 10 seconds after the fish is hooked to have a clear mind and sound judgment to fight it.  If you can remain calm for just 10 seconds, which may feel like an eternity, you can relax enough to the point where you are not making sudden movements. After ten seconds after a nice fish is hooked, and you have not gone into fight, flight or freeze mode, there is an excellent chance you will be taking a picture of a beautiful fish with a big smile on your face.

But lets face it, fisherman are all just adrenaline junkies.

Alan Peak is addicted to fishing. By day he is a fly fishing guide and by night he dreams of his next day on the water. You can find him guiding and fishing primarily on the South Platte nearly every day of the week. If Alan is not with his family he is guiding, fishing or tying flies. If you see Alan on the water, say hello! Normally, he ties a half dozen flies of the day for each day for people he meets on the river.
Blog content © Alan Peak
Member comments
FISHRANGLER, CO   1/13/2013 9:56:46 AM
I can remember when I lost a very big cat at the side of my boat two seasons ago, I learned a lot from that. I wont forget what I did wrong for a while It hasn't happened again and I hope it doesn't. I am waiting for that Adrenaline fix to come once again.
panfishin, CO   1/13/2013 1:51:38 PM
i missed a shot at a huge bass this fall, easily over 5lbs...i went for the hookset from hell just a split second too early and he ran away with my senko instead of my hook in her jaw. i just needed a bit more patients that day.
JKaboom, CO   1/14/2013 1:51:30 PM
Great Blog Alan - all very true :)
lwt5150, CO   1/23/2013 7:36:26 PM
Great article! I lost a very large Rainbow last year because of my reaction when I realized how big he was. I've been trying to analyze the situation so it doesn't happen again. This is exactly what I was looking for.
Alan Peak (moosegoose), CO   1/23/2013 8:25:45 PM
Glad to hear it 5150!!!
EricCO, CO   2/5/2013 12:43:40 PM
If the big fish peels drag, I start laughing really hard. People trip out on it for sure. The best thing I learned to do is to hand the rod to the Co-angler. But if I'm reeling in the fish I make sure I do two things: 1. Practice deep breathing to stay focused 2. Watch the bend in the rod, not the line. This is especially helpful when netting.
Alan Peak
Guest Blogger