Volume 15, Issue 5 ~ February 1 - February 7, 2007

The Sporting Life
by Dennis Doyle


We all have ways to charm the fickle fishing fates

The fishing had gotten red hot on the river. Rock averaging seven and eight pounds were nightly ravaging pods of peanut butter balled under the high-intensity dock lights of savvy waterfront residents.

My stories of 20-fish nights to a particular sporting friend of mine from New York were accompanied by my promise to include him when the fishing got predictable enough to chance the trip down. It had gotten that good.

The weather the night Brandon was due was perfect: virtually no wind, a mild temperature, good moving, high tide and plenty of bait in evidence. My friend showed on time bearing his fly rod, drinks and snacks, and off we went.

We were greeted at the boat by a low white fog sitting on the nighttime water. I had not seen a fog the whole fall, and there was none forecast for the evening. Puzzling, but we had not far to go to the first light, I was familiar with the water and the mist was sure to lift as the night wore on.

Wrong. It got thicker.

All was still not lost because that first light was one of the best. We sat in the skiff and waited for the heavies to arrive. And we waited.

Passing the time with catching and releasing a few sub-legal fish, I assured my friend that it would only be a half-hour or so till the big ones showed. Wrong again.

I was perplexed. This was the first night in two weeks that the fish had failed to arrive. I had even passed over this dock the last two outings in spite of seeing the splashes of heavy stripers. Something was amiss.

I had a dark thought as I looked at my friend and his bulging snack bag. Finally I asked the question. “You didn’t bring any bananas, did you?”

“I’ve got a bag of ’em,” he replied. “Would you like one?”

“No, no, no, no,” I answered.

We disposed of the offending fruit, but the damage was done. The fog lifted shortly thereafter, but too late. The magic hour was gone. Traversing the river from point to point and stopping at many previously productive areas produced nothing but 16-inch fish.

Brandon thought I was shining him on with the story. He was a trout fisherman and unacquainted with some of the more arcane beliefs of salt-water anglers.

I was not making it up. I knew those bananas had jinxed that trip from the time we stepped on the boat. Bananas are a known luck-killer on any boat from Maine to Key West, and probably around the Horn.

Charms and Taboos

But there are some anglers who scoff at the banana jinx. They’re the ones with lucky hats. They don’t always admit to it, but watch. They always wear the same one fishing, and the hat is never washed, never left lying around — and God help you if you jokingly put it on or even pick it up.

Marriages have been dissolved over their disappearance. Counselors and arbitrators have become involved when they’ve been put in the washer. This is serious juju were talking here.

It takes months to identify a lucky hat, sometimes years. It becomes a tremendous emotional investment on the part of individuals who do not take emotion lightly.

I’m generally not a superstitious person. I believe that there is a scientifically based reason for most phenomena.

Except for fishing. Fishing is too important an activity to limit its success or failure to the prescribed paradigms of scientists and their ilk.

My superstitions are all based on personal experience and sound, fuzzy logic. I don’t wear clothes with fish pictured on them, I don’t allow bananas on board, nor any kind of representation of bananas.

Some anglers have lucky lures. I don’t, only because I rarely hold onto them long enough for them to acquire any kind of aura, lucky or otherwise.

But I do have other prejudices. Of course one must never promise fish before they are caught. That is the jinx of all jinxes.

Boast at your own risk. I try to keep my mouth shut before any trip, anywhere. The more distant the destination, the quieter I get.

Never compliment the reliability of a boat motor. Boy, she sure starts right up for you, doesn’t she? will only get you an icy stare and probably no repeat invitations.

Challenging the weather is also high on the list of no-nos. Comments like What a great day! and, I thought the wind was supposed to blow, are sure to bring that particular prediction true — but only after you’re far from shore and finally into fish.

Sometimes it is a tightrope we walk in our efforts to keep the fishing gods in our favor, but it is worth it. When it’s all said and done, skill and equipment only get you so far.

An old ballplayer once summed it up: “Some are good; others are lucky. I’d rather be lucky.”

Fish Are Biting

Chain pickerel are still pleasing winter anglers whenever the weather permits. Yellow-perch fanatics are making the first trips of the season, but no success stories yet.

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