In the opinionated world of the fly angler, you will hear a bunch of “gospel” telling you everything from what you should wear, to what tippet you should use. You doubt me? Google, “Tenkara Fad” and see what happens. My favorite opinions are the ones that tell me if I am actually trying to catch fish, then I am forever doomed and will never reach some mythical 4th Level of Fly-Fishing Nirvana… If that is true, Oh High-Priest of the Drift, why are you top-holing me? If you didn’t like catching fish, you wouldn’t have a hook at the end of that line. Don’t lie to me, better yet… Don’t lie to yourself. Instead of trying to over-compensate, just admit it; you hate losing fish, or getting snubbed by creatures with a brain the size of the lint collection you’ve got going in your belly button. It is okay friend, you are in good company. People tell me I am good company and by people, I mean my Mom.
There are few things in this world that fill me with as much joy as feeling a fish take my fly. If you mixed the hope that the hottest chick in the room is actually waving at you, with the excitement of finding out the rod you have been denying yourself for months is seventy-five percent off, and topped it off with the first sixteenth of a second after a sneeze; you might get close. In the whole experience that is fly fishing, that is one of the moments I crave. That singular sensation fills my spirit to the brim and keeps me on the water long after stage-one hypothermia sets in. I loathe its antithesis; the missed hook-set. I abhor losing fish with a seething contempt usually reserved for the errant mushrooms that rudely inhabit my pizza. I wouldn’t say that I am okay not catching fish either, but I can tolerate that as long as the drive to get there wasn’t over an hour. I hate losing a fish like nothing else in this world. The things that happen in my head after that sudden slack are torturous.
I want to blame the fish, idiots. Don’t they know who is fishing for them? Logic holds firm, implying simply: the fish did its job. Locked firmly in this slack-induced seizure, I lash out at factors I have no control over. I curse the wind, and logic quietly points out the wind is above the water. I blame the structure for snagging my streamer so many times I was numb to the real thing. Logic, like an annoying therapist, doesn’t let that go unanswered. It reminds me that I was numb, therefore I missed my moment. With every attempt to lodge blame elsewhere stymied, I am forced to shoulder fault. I then assume general ineptitude allowing my self-doubt to launch a Sherman-esque campaign against my self-confidence. The “scorched-earth” tactics employed by my own self-doubt are ruthless. I doubt my ability to fish, negatively assess my value as a man, and wonder if I should ever fish again. I replay the experience with prejudice filters, waterboarding neural networks until a culprit is fingered. My good sense has to counter quickly beat my doubt into submission so fishing can resume. Common sense proves there are several reasons as to why one loses a fish during the hook-set: short strikes, smaller fish, or it may have just been an especially fishy-feeling submerged limb. These are known things yet, somehow when my brain is jumping from accusations and conclusions at devastating speeds; it never lands in that zip code.
All of these thoughts transpire in mere seconds. Externally, I shake my fists and swear. I have the occasional physical tantrum. Conversely, my reaction may simply be a slack-jawed staring contest with the water, as if I expect the water to suddenly hook the fish for me to show how sorry it is. I have also been known to just give it up, blame allergies or mosquitoes for my lack of resilience and just leave. Idly (and very quietly) threatening to return and exert my superior fishing prowess on every fish in the river. I drive back telling my internal self that I wasn’t really trying to catch fish. That is how I know that phrase is just a verbal equivalent to the white tip of chicken droppings… As pretty as it may seem in comparison, it is still chicken poop.
So Mister (or Missus) Snobby Angler, you are not alone. It is safe to dismount your taller-than-average horse, and likewise to remove the oversized wedge of wood from the real estate left of your neck. I eventually accept losing fish as part of fishing, and find comfort in that lost fish retain my hat size. No one wants to fish with a cocky angler. I hate when that sudden slack happens, but I love when it doesn’t even more.
Author - Brandon Robinson is an HVAC Technician turned Trade School Instructor. When not planning for the Zombie Apocalypse, he splits his time evenly between mastering the art of Astral Projection and Fly Fishing. He proudly hails from the Sunshine State, but has lived on the surface of the sun (Austin, Tx) for the past 6 years. He is a benevolent dictator and his people love him. Follow him on Twitter or his homepage, if you could stand the dribble above.