Golden Rules of Fishing

By RAFAEL MORILLO | Mar 13, 2019

Centuries have passed since the original writings of Dame Juliana Berners in her book A Treatyse of Fysshinge Wyth an Angle, circa 1496. Since then, stories about fishing make for one of the most prolific collection of prose and fiction of modern times. 

A few general rules or theorems about fishing can be formulated based on these writings, lore, careful observation of facts and work-induced daydreaming.

Fish are never here; they are always there.

Usually, way over there!

This explains why when you arrive at a stream, you always start casting to the other bank. You don’t know the river, it’s your first time there, you are fresh and eager and you just know that the fish are way over there.

Fish, of course, don’t care and don’t know this rule. They live their carefree lives on both sides of the river. But you insist in abiding by this golden rule and always cast to the other side. To confirm this theorem, another fisherman will come in on the other side of the water and immediately commence casting to your side of the river. He knows the golden rule!

This rule also explains the fascination of remote fishing camp guides to always insist on traveling all morning to that special spot where the fish are. All the way over there. Right next to the other fishing camp on the same lake whose guides, of course, cross the lake to fish on your side. Often you cross paths traveling in opposite directions and you wave at them, thinking, “Poor suckers, don’t they know that the fishing is better over there?”

The big ones do not always get away.

They are just caught by others.

All you have to do to convince yourself of this rule is to browse through the catch log at the fishing camp. Everyone has caught the big one but you!

That very spot where you fished today without even a swirl behind your fly yielded an 8-pound brown to a 10-year-old punk, just last week.

Big fish are particularly easy prey to sportswriters and magazine contributors. You always see their pictures. That very river you have been religiously fishing for 10 years, where you have been looking for that special salmon, has given you nothing but grilse or trout. However, when visited by one of “the great ones,” we get a report on the camp log such as this: “Ernest Schwiebert, five Salmon over 20 lb., from the Federico Pool on a tiny no-name nymph.”

The name of the proud guide always follows with special words of praise for his knowledgeable assistance. Get serious!

You know how difficult it is. You know the odds. You can calculate probabilities. But it is written there to prove the rule. Everyone smiles about it and the guide, who got paid and tipped, of course, smiles the most. And everyone is OK with this?

You will notice as you look through the pictures on the walls of the lodge that the fish start to look familiar.

Deliveries from fishing supplies catalog stores always arrive when you are not home.

It is your wife who always receives them.

“Honey, did you order again from Orvis?” Somehow she manages to get the word “again” to echo from the walls. “What did you need this time? What about the new refrigerator that we need or the kids’ clothes? Did you also order that from Orvis?”

Your standard answer is some mumbling about screw-ups and long-lost back-ordered items.

A corollary to this rule is that: No fishing catalog is to arrive alone. They always arrive with the Neiman Marcus and Victoria’s Secret catalogs.

I swear this is all arranged.

“You read yours, I’ll read mine. See who can order the most in less time” is the underlying threat that fills the household.

Who would dare?

The real cost of fishing trips is never  disclosed.

There are two important aspects to this rule.

You need to worry about direct and indirect costs. The direct costs are never mentioned to safeguard your life and that of your fishing partners. The indirect costs are hidden from your fishing partners out of shame.

Really, would you openly admit to having to go on a full-week cruise of the Caribbean so you can get to go fishing?

The direct costs are carefully shielded in the he-man world:

“Sweetheart, how much is it costing you to go fishing this year?”

“Sweets, you would not believe the price we are getting. There must be a mistake.”

Then you quickly suggest, “Why don’t we go to the mall and look at those pocketbooks you liked so much last weekend?”

Fine fishing rods are magic wands.

I always wondered where fairy godmothers got their magic wands? From the Bass Pro Shops catalog, of course!

Fly rods magically turn whoever is holding them into complete morons.

Top executives of multinational corporations with hundreds of people at their command and millions of dollars at their whims turn into complete idiots when holding a trout rod. They become fumbling twerps unable to do anything by themselves, unable to make even the smallest decisions.

“Hey, Bill, would you like a drink? We have scotch and bourbon.”

Long silence.

“Yeah, I don’t know. Can you repeat the choices again?”

Armed with the latest and the best of fishing gear and clothing, it’s only when the guide yells “give me a cast at 11 o’clock, 20 feet out” that he realizes his fly is caught in his pants.

His mind is working at blinding speed: “Jeez, these are $120 pants. I can’t just rip them, can I?” Never mind about the 700 bucks a day plus tips and airfare he paid to get the opportunity to cast to that fish.

Well, these collected thoughts are either food for further thought or food for the ever-hungry paper shredder. Let your assistant decide.

Rafael Morillo of Barnegat Light was born in Venezuela has fished far and wide, including the Caribbean and the Arctic and Antarctic circles. Patagonia has been a yearly fishing destination for him since 1986.






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