Fishing: It’s Complicated

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Ah, fishing—the second-oldest profession. Once known as a backbreaking, heartbreaking, sixteen hour-a-day occupation, suited for only the hardiest of souls, this noble trade has gradually moved into the category of leisure and is now officially called fun—even relaxing.

And yet there remains an unspoken bond and kinship with those rugged individuals of yore. Whether perched on the grassy banks of a small pond, catching hand-size brim, wading chest-high into a chilly mountain stream to match wits with the wily rainbow, or strapped into an angler’s chair fighting a mighty marlin fifty miles offshore. And whether equipped with a simple cane pole, an obscenely expensive fly rod, or a fifteen-hundred-pound test line, the goal remains the same—to out think a fish.

Since the dawn of mankind, men (and women) have engaged in the watery chess game we call “fishing”. These bobber-watching “Bobby Fishers” (pun intended) are always seeking new ways to fine-tune their skills—to think like a fish, anticipate their movements, and even feel what a fish feels on any given day. For then and only then can the appropriate bait be chosen. This is what occupies the thoughts of the serious fisher-person. Oh sure, any Huckleberry can a drop a hook in the water and have a fish bump into it. But you’ll never win an International Fishing Rodeo relying on dumb luck. No, I’m talking about the professionals—and the metaphysical.

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Just as the martial arts of Kung Fu and Karate have different levels of deadly proficiency, the black belt angler is a master of his mystical craft. In what can only be described as a transcendental state, the modern-day fishing guru can lower his heart rate, slow his biorhythms and reduce his brainwaves to a smooth no wake zone, in order to mentally ascend above this temporal world of air-breathers and become one with the fish.

The true fish-shaman shuns all illicit stimulants, other than the fully stocked beer cooler on which he sits, and yet telepathically channels his gilled nemesis as it swims through its dark, murky, underwater universe. All the while wading knee-deep through his own limited knowledge for esoteric answers, muttering the imponderable question, “What do fish want? What do fish want? What do fish want?” Until, like the proverbial shaken can of beer, his cerebral pop-top is pulled and all those elusive answers spew.

He has finally made the Shaolin monk/fish connection and achieved the state of enlightened consciousness often referred to as “Nirvana.” But in the original Sanskrit is literally translated, “Smarter than a Grouper.” The trolling mystic now understands all things fish—he knows when they are sleeping. He knows when they’re awake. He knows if they’ve been bad or good… etc. More importantly, he knows where they’re hiding and what they want for lunch.

Eyes still closed, he points and alerts his loyal Jon boat chauffeur, “They’re over there amongst the cattails!” or “They’re down around the cypress knees!” As the sleek, aluminum vessel maneuvers into position, the master baiter unveils his tackle box treasure trove—multiple tiers of hand-painted lures, flashy spinners, fuzzy flies, gummy worms and icky bugs. His sensitive fingers tingle as they hover above this dazzling array of triple-hooked weaponry until sparks jump betwixt index digit and lure identifying the perfect temptation for today’s scaly adversary.

With the dexterity of a Lasik surgeon, he quickly assembles and ties the appropriate jig to the near-invisible poly-filament. Then, with a flick of his wrist, casts his fiberglass buggy whip and high-test line across the rippling surface. At which time he begins invoking the ancient laws of attraction, with the secret and sacred mantra, “Bite my hook, bite my hook, bite my hook.” Or sometimes, (but rarely) the even more powerful and effective “Be my trout Almandine.”

Of course, these mystical skills take many years of dedication and discipline to develop, but for those who can’t commit to a Spartan life in an austere fishing ashram, there is a quicker way to scale the learning curve. Well, it’s more like reverse engineering.

Close your eyes for a moment. Take a deep breath. Exhale. Imagine you’re on the shore of a large body of water. The waves are gently lapping at your feet. It’s a cloudy day and because it’s overcast, you’re feeling a little down in the dumps. But a few yards away you notice a shimmering gift-wrapped present with a big red bow has washed ashore.

Your interest is piqued. You cautiously draw near. You look around for anyone who may have dropped it, but you’re very much alone. Your gloominess begins to lift as excitement stirs within your solar plexus. You think, “Maybe, just maybe, it’s meant for me, left here by a secret admirer!” So you pick it up, tuck it under your arm and start home. Then wham! A largemouth bass jerks you into the surf where, to put it delicately, you sleep with the fishes. Just apply those simple principles to your fishing trip and you’ll do fine.

Fishing, like life, is only complicated if you overthink it. Or if you’re worried others may not consider you, “Smarter than a grouper.” So relax and have fun.

—The Cape Crusader