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Ronan's report

Sunday February 20th 2011

When was the last time you changed your mind? Not in an "I'll try a Royal Wulff - no wait, an Adams!" kind of way: but you know, on something a bit more meaty.

Probably doesn't happen much. Most of us try and work out our approach to life early on, and a lot of that stuff stays pretty fixed for the rest of our life. Things like politics, philosophies, even hair style and dress sense, get fixed sometime in our twenties. This often results in things like your dad persisting with a comb-over to preserve that rakish parting that was cool in 1952, and in him saying things like "you really can't beat a Milbro Trufly - best fly rod ever made."

Changing your mind is actually quite hard to do, especially on something you've been especially vocal about or where you've held the previous point of view for a long time. Firstly, your brain is programmed to cling to ideas it's already accepted, constantly looking for "facts", however spurious, to reinforce this and releasing endorphins to reward you when you find them.

Beware of that smug "I told you so" feeling when you finally find a positive review of the fly rod you just bought off e-bay. A good-ish review in the sports section of Gardeners' World does not a great fly rod make!

Secondly it's often socially embarrassing to change your mind. We lionise leaders for their consistency and resoluteness. It makes us feel secure when someone looks like they know what they're doing, and we're really uncomfortable if our leaders look unsure or if they're vacillating. We often ask politicians to think again, and then criticise them for being indecisive when they do! So generally it's seen as a bad thing to change your mind.

Which is a shame.

I quite like changing my mind, it usually means I've understood something new, or that my perspective has changed. I used to think salmon fishing was dull, and repetitive, but the more I learn about it the more it attracts me. There are new skills to be learned, new people to meet, and new places to fish.

Changing your mind is actually a great skill to acquire in fly-fishing. How many times have you driven to the water thinking you were going to fish one way, and then you've had to drop all preconceptions and do something different to catch fish?

The first time we travelled up to the North of Scotland we were all tooled up for traditional loch trout fishing. Alas the lochs were not fishing well at all. However we had a ball chasing pollock, mackerel and sea-trout off the coast. It meant we had to spend most nights fly tying (and cannibalising anything in our fly boxes with tinsel in it), but it was well worth it Ð and sea-trout don't half pull hard on a 10ft 5wt.

I wonder about those anglers you sometimes meet who only ever fish the same fly, in the same way, often in the same spot, day after day, year after year, because they "caught 5 in a day fishing like this back in 1986". They seem happy enough and who am I to ask them to change Ð but I can't help thinking they'd get a lot more out of the game if they'd open their eyes, look around and change their mind.

Changing your mind is about understanding and perspective and is definitely something to be OK with.

Socrates said: The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know.

Lao-Tse said: The more you know, the less you understand.

And I bet George Bernard Shaw was a one fly/one retrieve kind of guy: "The more you learn, the more you know. The more you know, the more you forget. The more you forget, the less you know. So why bother to learn?"

The old bugger!


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