Have you ever heard the phrase: “That’s why it’s called fishing not catching”? I bet you have. It’s the angler’s way of reassuring himself that not catching fish is as much a part of fishing as catching fish is. Of course, it’s true. We’ve all had our fair share of blanks and, although there’s always a tinge of disappointment when we fail or, as an American I once new used to say: when we can’t ‘get the skunk out of the boat’, it’s certainly not enough to stop us trying again. Maybe, in fact, it’s what MAKES us try again.
My fishing pals regularly tell each other that, if you caught fish every time you went fishing, you probably wouldn’t bother going. It’s the uncertainty that makes it interesting: what will today hold in store? Will we catch? Will today be the day I catch the fish of a lifetime?
For me at least, fishing is all about anticipation. Of course, having your picture taken with the fish of a lifetime is a great feeling, but isn’t the best bit the thrill of the take? I believe there’s no better feeling in fishing that throwing the fly in front of the rising trout or a tailing bonefish (I’ve been lucky enough to fish for bonefish twice and, if I ever make my fortune, I’ll be doing a lot more!). Watching a big fish as it sees your bait and turns towards it is totally heart-stopping. Or how about watching bubbles appear around your float while fishing for tench, or observing a carp greedily taking floaters from the surface, waiting for it to find the one with a hook in? Or maybe fishing a peaceful Scottish river, then seeing a bunch of running salmon enter a pool, knowing that any second now they’re going to see your fly? This kind of fishing can be absolutely intoxicating.
If you told a non-fisher that, they’d think you’re crazy… “Fishing? I don’t know how you’ve got the patience!”
Ha! Little do they know, but let’s keep it that way. Fishing is already one of the most popular pastimes on the planet, so I’m perfectly happy for the non-believers to continue non-believing. Let them go shopping, or go to the pub, or watch the match, or whatever else they do, and let them leave the riverbank to the rest of us!
If it was called catching not fishing, I really don’t know if I would fish as much as I do. But why?
Let’s think about it for a second. If fishing was more certain, would we fish? I’m sure there would still be people who would fish for the pot, but would we fish for pleasure? On one hand, the thought of guaranteed success is quite appealing. Never again would you have to return home armed with the traditional fisherman’s excuse: it was too hot, too cold, too bright, too rainy, too windy, etc etc. But on the other hand, isn’t it the uncertainty that creates the excitement in the first place? I may be alone here, but I think fishing is about adrenaline. It’s the physical feeling accompanying the unexpected take that makes the whole thing so special. Even when you hook the fish, it’s still the uncertainty that makes it so exciting… Will the fish stay on? Oh please please don’t let this fish come off! Only when it’s finally in the net does the nervous excitement truly get released, and to my mind that combination of relief and joy can be pretty hard to beat!
I’m going to take it one step further. I like playing golf, and I think fishing is a bit like a game of golf. OK, I know it might sound weird, but bear with me…
Just as the golfer will, on his day, go out and shoot the round of a lifetime, the fisherman can go out and have a total red letter day. There is nothing like a great day on the riverbank, or on the golf course, to revive one’s passion and to fire us up to go and have another try. Or is there? Talk to a golfer who has just had the worst round of his life, and the likelihood is that he’s already burning to get out there again. No matter how tired he might be, he’ll already be thinking about that next round and that next swing. He has a score to settle – literally: “I can do better”.
Is it not the same with fishing? For me, there’s some deep-seated determination and unwillingness to be beaten that means a day without a fish only makes me crave another opportunity all the more. Sure, having a great day’s fishing is encouraging, but put me in a boat for a day where the fish won’t bite and I can’t wait to get out there again and prove them wrong. “No no no, Mr Fish, this time you got lucky, but next time is my turn.”
Maybe that sounds a little nuts, but I honestly think it’s true – for me at least. Am I alone?