Questions Have Answers
Flyosophy Fun Fact: The Main Image of this article has nothing to do with the text. It is what I found when I googled “Sexy Librarian with pencils in her hair” if you do that yourself – which we all know you will – be perpared to be disturbed. One day I will write a series of books where the main hero is a sexy librarian. She wont have sex in any of my books because no one will be good enough for her. Hopefully they will be read and inspire girls to become sexy librarians like those awful Hunger Games books inspired archery. Seriously those books suck…
You’ve heard this scenario before. For the past few seasons this has been my question, one that has eluded answering. But all riddles have answers, all puzzles get solved, all illnesses will be cured so long as we believe and never label them impossible. But it does take time…time and an active mind and the ability to know that in the end, even after a dozen dozen failures, you will find your answer. It is noble heroic even…though so rarely is that word used properly.
“I am a hero. It is a trade, no more, like weaving or brewing, and like them it has its own tricks and knacks and small arts. There are ways of perceiving witches, and knowing of poison streams; there are certain weak spots that all dragons tend to have, and certain riddles that hooded strangers tend to set you. But the true secret in being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventures, nor can the boy knock on the witch’s door when she is already away on vacation. The wicked uncle cannot be found out and foiled before he does something wicked. Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a very long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story.”
The Last Unicorn – Peter S. Beagle
Let’s review with a word picture.
The current is strong, easily pulling the sand from beneath your feet as the weight of the sea pushes the flood across the flat. The water depth is only mid-calf now, but rising quickly, very quickly. The sea is perfectly clear. You can see the individual grains of sand. The only stain is the haze that follows the schools of sand eels – what is that anyhow? Probably sand eel Wee Wee, there is a lot of Wee Wee. Why the baby name? Because what would you rather be standing in urine or “Wee Wee.” You find yourself thinking about your French teacher again…
Then, as though nature just lit a green light, the fish cruise onto the flat. With so many sand eels its easy to understand why they are here, what you don’t yet understand is why they are all big ones, very big fish. The average striper you are spotting is nearly four feet long – that’s the average, some of them are even bigger. Often these conditions bring in hordes of twenty inch fish, sometimes a mixed bag of 20’s and 30’s, and of course there are tides when there is a veritable soup of baitfish and nothing on it. Not today though, today they are all big fish. You do wonder why the big fish tend to come in on weaker tides later in the day. You know exactly when every written word says they shouldn’t…stupid fish obviously they know nothing about themselves. But today isn’t the day to worry about that question. You have a far simpler one before you, how do you catch them?
This has happened before, several times. Though you are excited at the prospect of hooking a beast you know that the reality is you are more likely to get skunked today than on the blind-casting days when you can’t see a single fish. It’s not just you either. Your buddies have the same problem, as do the guys who meet at the local shop for Tuesday Tying Nights – even meeting over beers – out of the ear-shot of tourists and guides and would be authors…well except for you but you hardly count. These are hardcore locals, ex-guides, guys who fly fish to hide from bitchy wives; you know the type…vested anglers. So far, their answers are as inconclusive as yours.
Still, you have a new fly you tied for just this occasion. It’s not the first “New fly” you’ve tried to answer the riddle. You realize and accept these fish aren’t impossible to catch. You realize and accept these fish are not impossible to catch. You realize and accept that you can catch these fish. You just sometimes need to remind yourself. These fish are not impossible to catch. Hell, you have caught them before, but it’s a puzzle you have never solved, blind squirrels and all that. You have tried a variety of flies, a variety of lines, and presentation techniques.
Each time you have gotten different results though some people may argue that “skunked” is the same result regardless of how the fish may have acted differently, horse-shoes and hand grenades and all that. Idiots!!! Fools!!! Actually they may be right, probably right, but it’s easier to stay positive if you believe and accept that you are right and the rest of the known world is populated by mentally feeble troglodytes. Easy enough you don’t need to repeat it. Make the Evil Genius Mad Scientist side of your personality work for you for once. I’ll show them, I’ll show them all!!! Good Boy.
The flashy pink fly got fish to follow but not take. Allowing the fly to sink to the sand and then violently stripping it as a fish swam by got a few takes, but far more often caused the fish to spook. Fast retrieves caught the rare aggressive fish, but were largely ignored. Casting close got reaction bites and spooked fish…the files of your experience are many, the unaccountable variables even more so…
But you have been learning. New ideas and new skills are at your disposal that weren’t before. The hardest to acquire was the skill of managing depth. Seems everything affects the depth at which the fly will work. Through experience and practice, you’ve gotten a lot better at balancing the line, fly, current, retrieve, slack equation. So you have that going for you. You have a lot going for you. You can cast a whole fly line in any direction without having to think about it. You tie good knots rarely miss hook-sets and you are patient and calm. You don’t loose your cool at the sight of a big fish near your fly.
The first group comes within range and you do what you have done a thousand times before. You loose your cool at the sight of a big fish near your fly; cast the fly ahead of the fish and strip it away from them. Like a thousand times before, the fish ignore it. You stop. Run everything through your mind. You have been in this situation before. You replay everything you ever did that worked, and everything you did that hadn’t. You start to see a pattern…a simple pattern…it can’t be that easy…
The next pod comes and you cast again. You resist the urge to do what you have always done and follow the new plan.
Not bad! You have never been one for measuring fish but you find yourself wondering how much this one weighs. It’s long, and pot-bellied more like a small-mouth than a striper. Your hand disappears into its mouth when you take back your fly. Well that was fun.
You make a few more casts to fish without results…before you realize you are doing the ineffective thing you have always done. Habit, it’s addictive. You make the next cast and follow your plan.
Hell yeah…oh wait fish off…son of a bitch. Well that’s life, didn’t the Havamal say:
“Cattle die, kinsmen die, sometimes hooks come out.”
Said no one ever
…well it should have.
Next cast, stripy strip, oh wait that’s not the plan. You are ashamed. You went right back to old patterns, but you are happy it only took a cast to realize it this time. You get back to your winning ways…
Another fish in the high 40’s, this is getting good. You know when you hook a big striper because it won’t fight until you horse it close enough for it to see you. Sometimes they come easily enough and you think you have a dink on…other time they feel like a dragging lobster pot.
You get the idea. This went on for the tide, and then for the next several tides. A few weeks later when the tides were back, it worked again for multiple tides. All in all hooked and caught more 40+” fish in the months of May and June then I ever had. On top of that I caught one fish that was a true beast. I may have been able to stick my head in its mouth like a lion tamer. A new personal best caught under a bright sky with an eight weight and a size 4 fly. Caught it after several 40’s and I was being crowded by a guide and several other anglers. I “Emmitt Smithed” that release. I was the only person to catch anything that day…given that my lucky is Abyssmal I feel confident the plan was working.
“No Pics then it didn’t happen.”
“Fine it didn’t happen. God, I hate the internet and the ADHD feebery it has spawned. Also, great job missing the point, dumbass.”
First this is what the point isn’t:
That I caught a very big fish.
That you can catch a big fish.
“What one man can do, another can do.”
Anthony Hopkins – The Edge
The point is two-fold. First, an answer was found to a difficult question. That is the thing you can do. I don’t know where you fish. I don’t even know for what. But I do know that sooner or later, if it hasn’t already, you will find yourself in a situation that seems impossible. You may loose focus, you may give up. I was lucky enough to be in that situation enough times to learn what I needed to know. Hopefully you will be too, and more hopefully it will take you less time than I required. There is an answer. I believe that by actively fishing you can find it.
The other point was more subtle – kudos to your reading comprehension skills if you found it…This second point was: after learning what I needed to do to catch these large stripers, on the very next cast, I fell right back to doing what I had always done before, my bread and butter presentation. Staying in that active mindset is key, and it’s not always easy. Even when you know what you need to do, sometimes you’ll just do what habit dictates. Keep an active mind.
If it was easy (like your mom) then everyone would do it.