Hope. It’s a good thing, right?
Wiki says that hope is an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, to cherish a desire with anticipation. Hope gets people through struggles and affords optimism when things look bleak.
Common knowledge is that good fishermen must have hope. We must be optimistic, or else why go?
Common knowledge also pairs good fishing and luck as natural partners. As a guide, I am hopeful before a day of fishing and I am a huge fan of good luck, but there are times (lots of them), where hope and luck are a crutch that need to be destroyed.
A few years back, I was on the bow of a skiff scanning the four feet of clear water over green turtle grass and sea fans, looking for shadows. I heard “10 o’clock. 120 feet. See the mud? That’s our boy.”
My body tensed and I checked my coiled fly line for the tenth time in the last five minutes. The permit tailed again, spraying water with his forked black tail. I spoke to myself as I often do, in tense times like this “Ok, Ben, breathe, relax, nice easy shot. You got this.”
“80 feet now, wait for him. Ok cast!” the man on the platform said.
I false cast three times and dropped the fly six feet short of the fish and four feet to the right. I let the fly fall then got tight to it and stripped three feet of line. I let if fall. I stripped again.
“He doesn’t see it. Cast again. Show it to him.”
I picked up fifty feet of line, and shot at him again. Five feet short of the fishes nose and six feet left. I crouched, making myself small on the bow as I let it fall. Before the fly hit the bottom, I gave a long…slow strip. The fish was calm, feeding and milling, not feeling us at all. I let the fly fall and stripped again. The fish didn’t react. I let it fall, and then got tight again.
“HE DOESNT SEE IT. TRY AGAIN!”
I lifted the fly line off the water, and the fish exploded. From calm and cool to terrified in a second. She-Gone! My head dropped, as I stripped my fly line back in.
Very quiet boat for a very long moment.
“WHAT IN THE HELL WAS THAT? YOU ARE HOPING AND PRAYING.
STOP HOPING. START KNOWING.
DON’T HOPE HE SEES YOUR FLY.
MAKE, HIM, SEE, IT!”
Stop hoping. Hmmm? That’s a novel idea. I was short and off the fishes shoulder each cast, but once in the water I was moving the fly like I was in the game. I was hoping and praying that the fish would do what he most likely wouldn’t. See my fly from ten feet, swim over and eat it.
I see, fish with, and guide hopeful anglers who play out this scenario in my boat all the time.
And it’s perfectly natural. It’s human to hope.
Mid-July, fishing to a big brown trout who seems glued to his weed mat, not moving an inch for our caddis. Or for our spinner, buzzball, ant or cricket. He won’t move for anything!
In May, that same fish will move two feet for our March Brown Cripple, but this isn’t May. He’s not the same fish. This is July. Now, after four fly changes and forty casts, we’re beginning to wonder if this fish is ours to catch? We make another cast, ten inches from the weed mat again. The fly lands three feet upstream of the fish but well outside of him. And, like a hopeful angler, we feed line through the space of water that is not anywhere near that brown trout lane.
A perfect dead drift. Why didn’t he eat?
Because, we still have, possess, and are using hope as a fishing tool. We are hoping that Mr. Brown takes a notion to something he does not even see! And I must note for the first time since we’ve been watching and casting at this fish has he made a move outside of his 1 inch feeding lane. We are hoping he will leave his safe little happy spot, swim over, and eat our fly?!&%$*
Of course it happens, because weird shit happens all the time when fishing. But, but not often enough for us to use hope as a certified dry fly method! A better approach is to abandon hope. Stop hoping that he does something he doesn’t want to. Stop hoping for the anomaly, for luck.
Abandon Hope, and show the fly to the fish.
Make him see it. I won’t speak for other guides, but personally, I’d rather see a fish spook from the fly landing too close on the first shot than to short a fish for forty five minutes and never show him the fly.
Abandon Hope. That is the moral of the story? Hahaha, well maybe just in a very small set of circumstances.
Keep on hoping for great hatches, good flows, cloud cover and no wind.
When your fly is on the water…don’t hope it, know it.
Ed Note: Thanks Ben Hardy for the killer article this Tuesday mid winter. Ben is busy this winter in Cascade MT remod-ing the house, waiting for an an addition of another kind, and rooting for his Patriots.
You can book Ben at Headhunters Fly Shop with just one phone call. Ben has been with Headhunters since day one. He opened the store in April ’08. Thanks for all you help Ben, then and now.