Tale End: An Exercise In Hope - The Fisherman

Tale End: An Exercise In Hope


There’s nothing like the first cast of the day. The first cast of a season feels especially good too, as you’re brimming with hope for that first savage strike from the waters below.

Hope. That’s a highly under-rated gadget in an angler’s mental tool belt. It’s there every time we go fishing, and hope is such a given that we often overlook it. We all go out fishing in the hope of catching fish, right?

Back when I was a young executive in the fishing tackle industry, I went on local fishing trip with my boss. To this day, I don’t remember where we went or even how many fish we caught, if any. I do remember the boss man saying, “we’re not going to catch any fish.” I thought, why bother going? Of course we’re going to catch fish, and lots of them! That’s when I first learned bosses aren’t right all the time.

Many years later, still in the fishing tackle industry, and many bosses later, I found our CEO letting us in on a secret: all fishermen went fishing solely to catch a big, IGFA World Record fish. I wondered, how are we going to build an ad campaign around that, especially for those who just want to hop on a party boat and catch some seabass for dinner? Thankfully that campaign didn’t last too long. Neither did the CEO. I guess the lesson we all learned is that the reasons we fish are as varied as the fishermen we meet on those party boat trips.

The common reasons we go fishing – whether it’s for recreation, food, camaraderie, competition or refreshing the soul – often morph into what makes a fisherman tick. And the cream that always rises to the top is optimism. Fishermen are natural optimists; how else can you explain that a wild, migrating striped bass, with all of its instincts, feeding and survival skills, will inhale an 8-inch flutter spoon in 40 feet of water, and connect with the treble hooks to boot?

A fisherman’s natural optimism primes the wellspring of hope; a hope that the next cast, the freshest, slimiest bunker chunk, or that newest soft bait, will get the quarry to strike. And hope breeds confidence, which all anglers desperately need. You’ve researched the fishery, mastered the correct knots, and have spent your hard-earned money on that high-priced reel.  You’ve done your homework – which was fun, by the way – but now you’re going to catch a fish on that next cast!

Sometimes, when I’ve been at it for a while, fishing, tired, and not catching, I feel the boogeyman of pessimism creeping in. And pessimism is bad juju when you’re fishing. I honestly believe those negative vibes transfer right down the line to your bait. So I chase away the boogeyman, re-boot my attitude and try some different spot, bait or technique. Maybe drift my fluke rig off the starboard instead of the usual port side of my little Whaler. Maybe I’ll catch fish, maybe I won’t, but there’s an old saying, “the pessimist may be right in the end, but the optimist has more fun along the way.” That kind of thinking makes every fishing trip a success.

Like any sport, fishing is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. Every time you lower the jig, every time you set your trolling spread just right, every cast is an exercise in hope. Keep those hope fires burning bright. Even on your last cast of the day.

One of my favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption, is all about hope. Fishing is well represented too. New prisoners arriving are called fresh fish, and one inmate is pretending to reel them in. Protagonist Andy Dufresne has the hope of escaping prison, and starting a fishing charter business. A relatable and admirable goal. Toward the end of the movie, Dufresne rises out of a muddy swollen creek like a hatchery trout on opening day.

He turns his jaded friend, “Red” Redding, from the dark hopelessness and pessimism of the prison into the bright sunshine of hope and freedom. “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things,” Dufresne says, “and no good thing ever dies.” Sounds a lot like fishing.

Red speaks the last words in this great cult movie, saying “I hope the (ocean) is as blue as it been in my dreams. I hope.”

Again, that sounds a lot like fishing.

The author worked as the Advertising & Public Relations Director for Penn Fishing Tackle for 25 years.


Tale End: One Fluid Formation

Tale End: The Lost Ark


Tale End: Old Fly Rods