The more time I spend fishing, the more I learn about fishing and about myself and how fishing is no different than most things.
Sometimes you go out on the water or to the shore and have no idea what you’re doing. You catch a fish. You get lucky. You go out with the wrong bait, the wrong tackle, but you land a fish nonetheless, a fish you were far from expecting. It is not rare to see a child, with a toy of a rod and the tiniest hook, catch the biggest fish of the day. While you stand there idly, watching from your spot, halfway envious and halfway humiliated by the slack in your line.
Sometimes you get a fish you don’t deserve, and a man just down the beach or across the
pond or even in the same boat goes home empty-handed, perhaps to his wife. To hungry children. He fished just as long and just as hard as you did, but he sees nothing for his efforts while you reap the reward of the hours spent casting. Little do you know, the empty-handed man was there for twice as long as you were. Such is the way. Funny the way it is.
These types of days are good days. Sometimes we have them. Sometimes we have bad days. Again, such is the way.
Sometimes you do all you can, you use all you know and all you’ve practiced but no amount of experience can save you from a fishless day. You can bring out your best rod and reel, have the ideal tackle to handle what you’re fishing for, you can have the freshest live bait, still bleeding–you can have every conceivable circumstance working in your favor–but yet you catch no fish. Sometimes you are the aforementioned man across the water who goes home empty-handed.
The act of fishing has immense carryover, not only the general principles, but the practice of fishing itself. The act of reasoning, planning how you think you could land a fish. Experimenting, tweaking, thinking on the fly. It’s a lot like growing wiser with age. You figure out what works and what doesn’t. You learn to control what’s within your realm of doing so. There is a constant debate between casting your line to the same spot and fishing
the same way with hopes of catching something that may be down there, versus the temptation of reeling your line in, picking up and trying a new spot, a new tactic. There’s no way of knowing which is better. All there is to know is that your decision will have consequences: one being a fish, the other being an empty and discouraging hook.
Maybe there’s a prize fish down there that was waiting to bite before you left your spot. Maybe you were just starting to get the attention of a fish before you changed your tactic. Maybe your change in tactics was too telling, and now the fish have all moved away toward some other man’s lure, which they’ll strike and the hook will set cleanly, and that man will have the fish that was almost yours.
Maybe there’s nothing down there at all and you keep trying the same spot, same tactic and go hungry for the night. Forearms and shoulders sore from reeling in, casting out, reeling in again.
There is no wrong way and there is no right way, there are only ways, and that is what fishing has taught. And just as I cast my line far out into the morning fog, I wake up every day and follow a flow chart of decisions–good and bad–and have to deal with wherever I end up. Because there will always be fish that were lost, lines that were broken, hooks that wouldn’t set.
But just as these will always be there, there will always be fish–fish ready to be caught. It just takes time, patience, a willingness to learn and a level head.