It is generally unwise to state rules in fishing, without qualifiers. I’ve learned so quickly in answering questions from clients on the river. Words like “never” and “always” simply invite instances of “sometimes.” Add a lady to the mix, particularly one with the temporal relevance to hold things over your head for a long time to come, and “never” becomes “usually;” and “always,” “almost never.” For this is the way that Murphy’s Law operates.
For instance, if you’re looking for something that used to be, or cannot be found, on your fly tying desk, there’s a strong chance that it’s in the place where it’s most likely to be, and a place where you have already looked for it, without finding it. Verbalize your quandary to aforementioned lady, and that chance increases exponentially. In fact, you can use this pattern to your advantage, since telling the lady that something is lost makes it infinitely more findable.
Weather works in the same way. If there is even the slightest chance of rain, or otherwise foul weather, projected for a day to be spent outdoors, it’ll probably happen. If the lady is to tag along on that trip, the chances skyrocket. If you neglected to mention, downplayed, or contradicted the forecast, the weather will, without a doubt, take a turn for the worse, and make the weather that was forecasted look like a fairy tale. Hopefully the lady likes you a lot, or is tough in other ways.
Similarly, the chances of otherwise unlikely fishing encounters increase dramatically whenever you downplay the chances of such an encounter. Downplay—or worse, use words like “never” and “always” in reference to the chances of—an event to one of these ladies, and you’re sure to witness a memorable, and thoroughly surprising, occurrence.
For example, one early November afternoon, when the wild trout stream closest to me was rolling high and opaque, I took my lady down to the creek to use her as a model. I was working on a gear review for a local, Virginia-made product called Rock Treads, a stud system for wading boots, and needed photos to accompany the words.
When we got to the creek, I was surprised by the flooded river. All of the other creeks in the area were sporting average to low flows. The sun was out, full-blast, which typically makes fishing really dirty water even more difficult—not that I was really concerned with the fishing, as much as I was with just staging shots, focused on the product.
Nevertheless, the photos needed to look natural, and so I brought with us a rod and a few flies. While Ali was suiting up in waders and boots, I rigged up the rod and opened up my fly box.
When Ali fully donned her waders, her eye grabbed a small nymph pattern discarded on the fly patch inside of my vehicle. Her indiscriminate empathy particularly grabbed hold of the broken stem of a palmered hackle and a yarn body that curled several inches off the back of the fly, hence its trashing in the back of my car.
When I told her that the fly was broken and wouldn’t catch fish, her dramatic sense of empathy fought back, and insisted that the fly be tied onto the end of her leader.
Down in the creek, as I was snapping photos, after a handful of casts, Ali picked her fly up to make another cast when her fly hung onto something. A few minutes of scrambling later, we determined that something to be an 18-inch wild brown trout.
I netted the fish with my wader bag, having left my net at home not expecting to come into any fish, and took some photos.
In retrospect, large brown trout are most susceptible to angling efforts in high water conditions, and their spawning behavior generally increases their general level of aggression. My leaving the net at home, insistence that a broken fly wouldn’t catch fish, and the inclusion of a lady with that ability to hold things over my head for a long time to come, made an occurrence of this magnitude almost certain.
Moral of the story? Never say never. And understand that ladies have special powers that border on the supernatural.
*Originally published in The Rural Virginian