Dealing with Disappointment While Fishing

By Melissa Ceren LPCC, M.Ed., Ed.S.

Feb 28, 2024

Everyone loses big fish and has fishless days, and it can be very disappointing. Use these 5 tips to make sure you still enjoy your day after a challenging day of fishing.

You’ve hooked into a big one. The biggest one you’ve ever hooked on. Adrenaline is pumping and you break into a sweat, you are doing everything in your power to keep that fish on your line.

Then, your line goes slack suddenly and without warning. The fish is no longer on the end.

If you have been fishing for any amount of time, you know this feeling. All this buildup of excitement without the celebration at the end to release your emotion. Out comes the profanity, the tears, or a good old fashioned river wail.

So, what do you do in times like this to prevent the loss from ruining your day on the water and create a more positive mindset in fishing?


Here are 5 Tips:

1. Don’t hold your frustration in. This can cause a buildup of negative emotions and lead you to lash out at your fishing partner or loved ones.

2. Practice gratitude: seeing the fish you fought, being outside, not working, improvement in your skills in order to hook into a fish like that, having the financial freedom to be fishing, etc.

3. Consider past victories, fishing or non-fishing related.

4. Take a moment. You may want to go straight back to fishing. Instead, sit on the bank, talk it out, have a snack, or watch your friend fish to mentally regroup after an emotionally charged experience.

5. Regulate your breathing. You may have been holding your breath while fighting that fish, and breathing will help your mind and body get to an equilibrium. My favorite exercise is to imagine smelling fresh chocolate chip cookies, and then to exhale as if to cool down the hot cookie.

Rest assured; this will not be the last time you hook into a big fish if you continue fishing in your life. The same goes for a fishless day, you will likely catch more fish in your life. If you allow yourself to feel the emotions of the loss or disappointment and then move through it, you may learn a thing or two about what you could have done better. Sometimes fish just come off or are not biting. But sometimes you do make errors that you can grow from. Learning and growing from setbacks help to build emotional resilience in and out of fishing.

Common pitfalls of losing big fish include pinching the line, not using the reel, having reel drag that is too tight or too loose for the fish to run, “horsing it in”, or not staying parallel for the fish - especially letting it run downstream of you. For more tips on how to be successful in these situations, you can read the article “Battling Big Fish” on

Melissa Ceren LPCC, M.Ed., Ed.S.
Melissa Ceren LPCC, M.Ed., Ed.S.

I am a mental health counselor and licensed fly fishing guide. I started fly fishing two years ago, when we moved from the East Coast to Colorado. Growing up, I was outside every chance that I had, and started going on weeklong backpacking trips with my dad at age seven. My other hobbies include painting, photography, birding, and gardening.