Editor’s Log: Group Therapy - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: Group Therapy

On a rainy afternoon last week, a friend texted me out of the blue, “I have found, what has to be, one of the largest wild brown trout in the Northeast.” He went on to describe it’s immense size and the experience of hooking it once and then having multiple other encounters with the massive fish. The giant brown hit in full darkness, ran hard and performed a somersaulting leap, shaking the fly off in the process. The subsequent encounters happened in daylight, the trout – with spots the size of quarters – snubbing the fly and turning away at the rod tip.

This story infected my brain; even though I am not a trout expert, I couldn’t help but apply bass logic to the situation. I found myself in a deep daydream, trying to understand the mood of a fish of that magnitude. In my mind and experience a fish like that needs to be presented with an opportunity that’s just too good to pass up. The lure has to be worth the effort, it has to be perfect and – most importantly – it has to be presented perfectly. Adding urgency to the equation, in a situation where you know where the fish lives, it may literally be a one cast per encounter proposition, otherwise you may risk educating the fish to the point that it may just ‘move out of the way’ even when you make a flawless presentation.

I responded, “I feel like I would want to buck the norms of trout fishing and throw something big, like a 6-inch swimbait, and try to send it streaking past. A situation it’s likely hoping for but also doesn’t see every day and it’s a caloric reward that it just can’t afford to miss out on.” He responded right away, “When I hooked it, it took a 10-inch fly and the take was incredible. When I saw it in daylight, it was following an 8-inch fly.” He went one to add, “The river it’s in sees a modest run of herring and that’s almost certainly why the fish is there.”

My striper senses kicked in at that moment; “Your window may be about to blow wide open over these next few weeks as the herring begin to drop back to the ocean.” I couldn’t help but wonder out loud if a small dot of scent added to the fly could be the thing that switched the fish into full commit mode – of course adding scent is a bit of a fly fishing taboo. My friend responded, “I think that fish is going to almost always be in kill mode at night, when I saw it during the day it was likely just resting and following the fly out of curiosity.”

As our text string grew longer and longer, it occurred to me that this whole exercise was nothing more than fishing therapy. He’s a far better trout fisherman than I could ever hope to be and nothing I could say was going to solve the riddle. This was a brainstorm session intended to get him psyched up and into the right mindset to make it happen. And, for me, it was purely for the enjoyment of getting into the brain of this fish of truly rare proportions.

The last thing I said before our conversation cooled, was, “One thing I would definitely be doing right now is envisioning the moment when I had to figure out how the heck I was going to land that fish.” This is another trick from surfcasting, using my mind’s eye to picture what a truly giant fish would look like gliding into the beam of my headlamp. That’s the exact moment when so many battles with giant fish, go sour. Both the fish and the angler are likely to panic in that moment and with short leads of line, panicked participants and a sudden frenetic urge to ‘grab this thing before it gets away’ can ultimately lead to a lost fish and a heavy heart. As of last check, the fish was still at large, patrolling her pool on a river that I will not name.

But I have no doubt that he will succeed in landing that fish, unless she decides to move, and if that happens, we may be having an altogether different kind of therapy session.

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