The Search Part V---Addiction

The Search Part V---Addiction

Andy Dear | Sunday, 23 February 2020

Earlier last year, I wrote several pieces detailing some thoughts I have about the similar nature of the sport of Golf, and the craft of Fly Fishing. It was in one of those essays that ran on Feb 10th, 2019 entitled "Slow Motion" that I introduced all of you to a man named Jim Waldron. Jim is an incredible Swing Coach, who has developed a program that in my opinion uncovers the truths of a proper golf swing. And, although this week's Front Page is not about the swing, it is about a concept I was introduced to by Jim that sheds some light on why I believe so many of us have become obsessed with fishing.

  To play the game of Golf successfully, one must have among other things, a sound knowledge of the swing fundamentals, and more importantly be able to execute them to effectively be able to post a number on the scorecard, and it's no different in fly fishing. Sound knowledge of the mechanics of the cast, and an ability to execute them under a multitude of environmental conditions are integral to ensuring a reasonable amount of success on the water. The question remains though, why do we become so obsessed with these pursuits? Mr. Waldron has an insightful theory about this as it relates to golf, and its one that I think translates over very well to fishing.

  Consider for a moment the individual who is addicted to gambling. They sit at the blackjack table, or the roulette wheel placing their bets hopeful for a big win. And by the law of averages occasionally they will win....maybe even several times in a row. The problem arises when the odds work in their favor, often enough that they have convinced themselves that they have the game figured out. And when the odds swing back the other way, as they always do, and they start taking losses, they're unable to accept that their newfound ability to win was nothing but a mirage in the desert. So they continue down the path of searching for another method, unable to accept that in many ways it really is all up to "chance" and that they have very little if any control over the outcome.

  Jim's position is that golf is very much the same way. The golf swing is a very VERY complex motion with dozens of variables that must line up at the right place and the right time in order to execute a well struck shot. The high handicap golfer without the proper knowledge of the complex motion of the swing, like the roulette player, will occasionally hit a well struck shot...maybe even several in a row. And like the roulette player will convince themselves that they have figured out how to have some control over the successful result. Maybe they flared their left foot a little differently or rotated their grip differently. The fact is, that in the grand scheme of things, one minuscule change in a bad golf swing that requires 40 or 50 things to line up and be executed correctly to hit a proper shot, would never result in any reliable control over the outcome of anything. Yet if one convinces themselves that they have control, or at one point had control, not knowing they are ignorant of the proper knowledge, they will continue to search and search and search, hopelessly for some "secret technique" to miraculously turn them into a scratch player. If you have any doubts about this being a real phenomenon, I would invite you to pick up a golf magazine, or turn on the golf channel and take look at the incredible amount of money that is being extorted out of high handicap golfers, desperate to lower their score that will open their wallets at the mere mention of a secret move or a magical new piece of equipment guaranteed to cut 10 strokes off your game.

  When Jim and I discussed this several years ago, I saw in myself this attribute of searching without proper knowledge for some "magic move" that would turn me into a better golfer. And it was one of the most liberating moments in my golfing life. Very much like the individuals in Plato's Allegory of the Cave who had no idea they were wrapped up in a deceptive illusion until they were introduced to a perspective based on knowledge of the truth.

  So, what is the truth, and what does it have to do with fishing? Well, considering the obscene amount of variables that have to line up correctly for us to deceive a living organism that is highly adapted to its habitat and very much in tune with all the environmental variables around him, it does make you wonder how much control we have deceived ourselves into thinking we have over the outcome of a successful fishing day. After all, you can only define success in the context of the associated failures. In other words, the angling scorecard is incomplete without knowing how many fish took one look at that Clouser Minnow and laughed hysterically at the idea of being deceived by something made of dead animal parts that even on the best day only vaguely resembles the real thing. I mean if I catch 10 Redfish on a fly in a days fishing, I consider that a resounding success. But if there were 100 Redfish that the fly (unknowingly to me) passed in front of and it was refused for whatever reason...should catching 10 be defined as success? Did I really ever have control over anything? Yet I will convince myself into thinking that because I caught a few fish, that I have this all figured out, and cant wait to come back the next day to exercise my new found control over the fish again.

  There is a famous saying that the first step in recovery to addiction is admitting you have a problem. And in my opinion, the "problem" of a fishing addiction may be that we have convinced ourselves that we have much more control over our angling successes than we actually do. And when nature proves us wrong on the days we get completely skunked, we will continue to come back again and again and again, hopelessly addicted to figuring out the secret to a game that has no complete set of answers.

But it really is a beautiful game, isn't it?

Hope you all have a great week.