Last weekend I headed out on two brief excursions with different expectations, and discovered that neither trip matched up at all. Sunday morning I headed out at down to a local lake with my 4'10" ultralight and 4-lb test, partly to test out a new panfish lure I had picked up. I didn't have expectations to catch much -- if anything -- but it's always fun to have the ultralight out, and I hadn't done so all year. Things started off slow (accept for getting to see an odd little bird -- a baby heron maybe?), but then I got into a batch of thick bluegill, and one nice crappie. I lost one large fish that burrowed into some algae, and another big one that was most likely a bass, but that I only got a quick glimpse (and was surprised to see it flash silver).
When the fishing slowed, I moved to another section of the lake that I'd had good luck on in the spring. I took a few more big bluegill. I lost one more big silver-flasher and headed back to the car, satisfied with a very fun outing.
The next morning I got up a little later to hit the river at a park that only opens at 7am. I was the first one at the river, as far as I could tell, and I was excited. The last time I had been here was the trip where I had done so well with Dad. Given that it was Memorial Day weekend, I tempered my expectations a little, figuring the fish had been pounded throughout the weekend. Still, I was hoping to catch a smallmouth in the two-pound range, maybe around 15 inches.
Everything was lazy, or at least tentative. I stuck with it, tossing nightcrawlers and hoping as the water warmed the fish might become more active. I took a few little bluegills, and then some decent chubs. I took one smallie about seven inches. I covered a reasonable amount of water, watched the sole of my shoe unpeel, tied it together, and still couldn't find fish. I went home after a couple hours for a big family breakfast.
The thing was, the fishing had been pretty similar. Day one: six or seven fish in three hours, lost a few, and went home very happy. Day two: six or seven fish in two hours, none lost, and went home disappointed. The batch of fish from the first day weighed more and struck on top, but the real difference was my expectations and my equipment. Expect nothing and take an ultralight, and you're likely to be content; expect much and take a heavier rod, and you'll have to do better not to be disappointed. I'm not saying to lower your expectations, but maybe a little after-the-fact revision of what the day was like isn't actually so bad.