I don't think I'm very competitive exactly anymore (although my Dad and I and friends and I used to have plenty of contests when I was a kid). Dad and I still joke about it when we're out, but I'm just as happy if the other person does well (and now, as my wife is just learning to fish, I would LOVE for her to catch more than me, any day).
I will admit, though, that there are days when not catching fish, or not catching many is a downer. I'm starting to think through it a little bit on my blog (Anglenook
) and will continue to be doing so, but I think there are a few factors for me:
1) Why am I out on a given day? Sometimes it's an escape from daily stress, but sometimes, as one writer said, it's not an escape from life but an escape into life. Sometimes I just want to be somewhere pretty, doing something nice. On those days, I don't care if I catch fish. Other days I want to be engaged with the fish themselves. It's disappointing if I don't at least get some hook-ups.
2) Expectations. If I'm going somewhere difficult or full of small fish, then I'm satisfied if my results line up. If I'm going somewhere that I think I can really do well, and then don't, then I'm more likely to be disappointed. This factor is probably less a consideration than #1. Some days I'm content to be watching birds, wildlife, whatever, even if I thought I'd have a fish-filled outing.
3) Time on the water. If it's a period in my life when I can get out a lot (I used to fish daily through high school, and similar during college summers), any given outing matters a lot less to me. If it's a period where getting time on the water is a challenge, I sometimes can't shake the feeling that it's been wasted time if I have a bad outing. Not always - just sometimes. If you've had to arrange childcare, call in a favor, etc., and then spend a few hours proving no such creature called a trout exists, then it can feel more like futility than like valuable time in nature.