Blanking...it's good for the soul

Blanking...it's good for the soul

Tracy&James | Thursday, 24 August 2017

I read with interest Paul’s ‘Cracking the Code’ front page last week. I thought I’d add some comments of my own on perhaps why, as anglers, we don’t actually want to ‘crack the code’, more like put a bit of a dent in it.

Firstly, I’m sure we’d all agree that ‘cracking the code’ in a fishing sense is an impossibility. I could sit here and type all the variables that I can think of that make up a day’s fishing and someone else could easily come along and add a few pages more. With pretty much unlimited variables, the system (i.e. a day’s fishing) is best described, in a mathematical sense, as chaotic. So, at best we’re looking at trying to see patterns in this chaos and that, to me, is a good way to describe the process of learning to understand a particular fishery or species.

As a child of 11 or 12 I was given (or bought – I can’t remember) a Rubik’s Cube.  Once scrambled this presented a seemingly impossible puzzle to me.  Pretty much straight away I could re-arrange it to get one side completed but beyond that, no matter how much twiddling I did with it, there was little progress towards a solution.  Months went past and considerable time was spent, all of it in vain, until I met someone (my cousin actually) who pointed out some generic patterns and some strategies to employ once I’d identified them.  Within a week I’d solved the cube, in fact I still remember exactly where I was when the last pieces fell into place (just outside the school gates).  I kept it in its completed state for a few days, basking in my glory, until I decided to scramble it once more.  I don’t know how long it took me to solve it for a second time but I doubt it was more than thirty minutes.  The third time was quicker still.  Before long all that was left to do was to see how quickly I could solve it compared to my best time.  The cube had lost its challenge and soon after I lost interest in it.  (I didn’t pick up a cube for probably 30 years plus until someone brought one into work – I found I can still solve it in the same time that I could as a child).

Now, if someone was to genuinely crack the fishing code for a fishery or a species what would be the point of going fishing?  To see how quickly they could catch all the fish?  Would they bother to fish at all on days they knew they wouldn’t catch?  Would they use flies that they knew the fish wouldn’t be interested in or go straight to the one they know would work?  Most importantly, how would they know if they were having a good day or not? 

If you break it apart, a Rubik’s cube has just 21 pieces; 8 corners, 12 side pieces and the central mechanism supporting the 6 middle squares.  With this it is possible to have 43x1018 starting positions (according to Google).  Now this is a huge number, 43 followed by 18 zeros, but it still gives a problem that is solvable in just a few minutes, or even seconds if you’re some sort of cube savant.  Luckily, as mentioned above, the list of ‘pieces’ (or variables) that describe a day’s fishing, a specific venue or a species is almost limitless, and if you were to start to looking at the possible permutations you’d quickly find that the number associated with the cube was quickly dwarfed.

With fishing, the vast majority of these variables are also totally out of the control of the angler.  For example I’ve seen a school of tailing bonefish spooked by a shadow caused by a passing cloud, there’s really not a lot I could do about that other than curse my bad luck (I suspect the fish were already a bit ‘edgy’, perhaps from an earlier sea eagle attack or other predation – or possibly a multitude of other things that could have affected the fishes behaviour that day.  Perhaps it wasn’t even the cloud but something else, unseen to me, that scared them).  I’m sure every one of us could talk all day about ‘odd’ happenings, so much so that I suspect we’d agree that ‘odd’ is in fact the norm.

So the one thing we can predict correctly about a day’s fishing is that it will be unpredictable!  This, to me, is essential for the enjoyment of the sport.  I understand Paul’s, and others, sentiments in striving to ‘crack the code’ – a deep knowledge of your quarry and its habitat is going to significantly improve your success ratio, however there will never be a discrete solution to the chaos that guarantees success every time.  We should be thankful for this, as without it fishing loses its unpredictability and with that goes the anticipation, the thrills, the disappointments and everything else that makes fishing worthwhile.

Have a great time if you’re fishing this weekend, and remember that if you blank you’re just making the good days even better!

James.