“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive, but attainable. A perpetual series of occasions for hope.”
What is it about fishing that makes us love it? Is it really that much fun to feel an animal fighting with everything that it has in the hopes of preserving its own life? Is it that we just love eating fish?
I think that for those of us that have a true passion for the sport, it goes far deeper than that. It’s a game of chess between you and the fish. It’s your preparation and skill against the raw survival instinct of a wild fish. You have to know your target. You have to know where they want to be, anticipate their moods, and you need a certain degree of luck on your side.
The truth of it is, though, that it is very hard to “know” anything. You take your experience and memories and draw the best guesses you possibly can from them. Therein lies the soul of the sport. The fact that it can never be mastered, will always change, and you can always do better drives you to want more.
Is it satisfying to catch a huge fish and feel its raw power testing your strength, will, and tackle? Of course it is. Is it nice to eat some fresh fish from time to time? You damn right it is. If you could never eat another fish that you caught for the rest of your life would you quit fishing altogether? I bet not. I hope not. I wouldn’t.
For a while I would have customers call to see about arranging a fishing trip and they would ask if I guaranteed fish. I would always agree, and eventually I made it a policy; “no catch no pay”. This was fine and people responded well to it. When you’re spending hundreds of dollars to go fishing I guess it’s nice to know you’re not risking anything.
The fact is that everything comes with sacrifice. Greatness comes with sacrifice and average comes with sacrifice, although average is much easier to guarantee than greatness is.
If you look deeper into the request for a guaranteed catch, you will actually see the underlying problem. Memorable fish, the fish that you tell stories about for the rest of your life, don’t come with guarantees. They come with a great deal of risk. The risk is failure.
Conversely, the guaranteed catch rarely comes with greatness. I guarantee that I can go catch you some Whiting, or some Sharks, or a few Trout. I can’t guarantee you that you get hooked up with a 20 pound Tripletail every time we go, or a huge Tarpon, or a Cobia. I can’t promise you that we will find a school of 30 pound Jack Crevalle or that we’ll get a 100 pound Spinner Shark to eat a plug.
What I can promise you is that if you are willing to risk failure and stay the course, and we’re successful, the reward is worth a thousand guarantees. That type of fishing isn’t for everyone. For those anglers that are as much thrilled with the hunt as they are the kill, they know that they will catch that fish of a lifetime. Maybe not on their next trip, but they will catch it.
Every failed attempt that lead to that moment when the fish breaks the surface the first time and does a back flip in mid air will be worth it. It will make that moment that much sweeter. For that angler, he will look at the boats around him that are in search of the guarantee and know that they can’t understand.
So, sure, I can guarantee you fish, but you might sacrifice the chance at a fish of a lifetime. I’m also happy to push all of our chips into the middle of the table and go for broke, but you have to be willing to sacrifice the guarantee.
Capt. TJ Cheek