The foam hopper landed inches from the edge of the large boulder, momentum carried the nymph a little further and it bounced off the face of the rock and settled into the jet of water accelerating past the obstruction. The hopper moved slowly with the current until the motion of the nymph pulled the dry fly into the same flow path, like a frustrated parent leading a tired toddler by the hand. At first excited by the accuracy of my cast and then disappointed by watching the dry fly dragged across the surface of the water, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Within less than a second I reopened my eyes and worked to locate the fly on the surface. I quickly found the fly and as soon as I found it, it quickly sank beneath the surface. 

Pocket Water at the Savage River

My disappointed mind dismissed the submerged dry fly as an indication that the nymph had snagged a rock or hidden log. I lifted the line to set the hook as if it could be a fish despite my skepticism. The line went tight, and I felt the vibrations in my fingertips of an obvious head shake. Skepticism turned to jubilant excitement as I could tell it was a good-sized fish. It neared the surface in its attempt to escape the hook and line and I could see it was brookie, likely the biggest brook trout I’ve caught. The excitement moves into another level for which I can’t find the word. 

It was likely my personal best brook trout. That sentence alone should tell you all you need to know about the remainder of the story. I moved my feet to safely keep me upright on the rounded, slippery boulders just in time for the brook trout to leap in the air and dislodge my hook from its mouth. I went on to catch several fish and have a great day. But the one that got away lingered with me. 

Later in the day, after I arrived home, I described my day fishing to my wife. I briefly spoke about the beautiful, peaceful setting and the several nice brown trout I caught and then I said the words that really sparked her interest. “I hooked a really nice brookie, but I lost it, it likely would’ve been my personal best.”

“Why do you say that all the time?”

“Say What?” I really had no idea what she was talking about. 

“Every time you tell a story about a fish you lost; it is always ‘likely your personal best.’”

“It is? I don’t…” I knew not to say anymore because it was true. 

Our exchange stuck in my head. Why was it that I held onto and repeated the stories of fish I lost? What was my perspective that those fish I lost (at least the ones I talked about) were all big fish? I know ego has something to do with it, but I forced my mind to go to science!

Refraction is the process by which light passes through one medium of a certain density, into another. This causes a change in the light waves and the perception of the viewers. So, there may be a scientific explanation for this phenomenon. The index of refraction of water is 1.33, while the index of refraction of air is 1.0. Therefore, as a person peers from the air into water, an object could appear up to 33% larger than it measures. This may not be exactly how it works, but it’s close enough to lead against the ego argument. 

The underlying argument is that all fly fishermen are liars. This may be one saying that doesn’t need to be rendered ungendered. There are multiple books with the title, including the wonderful collection of stories by John Gierach. Men have been prone to exaggeration on almost any topic for almost all time. Defining your fishing prowess by telling fish stories has become an analogy for many other points of exaggeration. 

I can’t always tell if I’m more of a romantic than a cynic, but I have moments of each. So why do I think I hold onto and tell the stories of the fish that got away? I wrote previously that lingering on lost fish can keep us from appreciating what we have in life. Now I think it may just be holding onto hope that there is more to learn, more to gain, and bigger fish to catch. The hope brings us back and makes the stories of the fish caught, against many times of struggle, so much more satisfying. 

Keep Mending…

4 Replies to “It Would’ve Been my Personal Best – Are Fishermen Liars?”

  1. Hey Scott!
    You hit the nail on the head! HOPE!! Hope is why we open our eyes every morning, hope for bigger, better. Hope for safety, hope for appreciation of the day, hope for forgiveness, hope for another chance, hope for success, hope for love and to be loved, hope for wellness, hope for Heaven.
    With hope comes our expectations. If we truly have hope we have to adjust our expectations. EXPECT it to work out, for it to happen, for you to catch that big fish. Prepare yourself for that big boy, expect that hit at some point, expect success. Hope drives us but then we have to expect the outcome we want and prepare for it.
    As much as fly fishing is experience, knowledge and skill, like most activities, there’s the mental game. To change or break out of your normal outcomes, you have to change your approach and expectations of your day. The little successes should build optimism for bigger, better outcomes. And if they don’t come, expect that too, and how to deal with it. Every day is a learning experience. Hope and expectations I think go hand-in-hand.
    And a little prayer every day also goes a long way!
    ~ Keep Mending

    1. Thanks Scott! Hope is incredibly powerful. With it, we can get through anything. The prayers help too! Thank you for reading and commenting!

  2. Scott Major said what was a splendid comment and insight!
    Life is full of opposites! Sometimes all are true!
    The experiences are part of the fabric of our lives. Some going one way, others going in the opposite direction! Making a strong creation!
    The big one is coming!

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