Fishing. Gambling. Same Difference. By Mark Usyk.

Someone once asked me where they could take their kid fishing, someplace where they were guaranteed to catch fish. I laughed. I understood they wanted a place to keep their son interested so they wouldn’t get bored, but seriously. If such a place existed I hardly doubt that’s a place another angler would tell anyone about, it would be the greatest secret spot in fishing history. But in all reality I doubt such a spot exists. There’s places where the fishing can be good, and then there’s places where the fishing can be nothing short of spectacular, but there are always days where in either one, the good or the spectacular, that the fish just aren’t going to bite. You can get skunked anywhere, on any given day. As good as you may think you are, as great of a secret spot as you think you have, there’s going to be days when you catch nothing. Every time you go out there’s a certain amount of gamble involved. Chance is the only guarantee in fishing.

Every piece of water you step up to is like sitting down at a card table. You might see a fish slosh away from the shore as you approach, you might even see one jump. Seeing one jump all but puts fish in your hand, in your mind before you ever even make that first cast. This is part of their bluff to make you believe the cards are in your favor. Hours later you walk away from the river beaten down, humiliated, an empty fly box, nothing left to bet but your soul. Turns out fish are great poker players. They made you think you had the upper hand with all your fancy gear and they took you to the cleaners. All you can think about is running home, refilling your fly box and coming right back. Surely the next cast will be the one.

Making a decision on what to tie on can be the same as betting it all on black…or do I bet it all on red? Sure there may be an irrefutable hatch going on and you might think you have the right pattern. But the size could be off a little, the color just one shade to dark or light, or the fish just a little too familiar with the glint of sharp hooks. It’s like putting chips down on a hot Craps table only to lose on the first throw of the dice for no other reason than it can happen, and does. Fish bite or don’t for no other reason than they can or don’t. To try to get into their heads is like trying to get into a poker players head. There’s a good chance you’re going to read something wrong.

There’s no guarantee for catching a fish. There’s only perceived knowledge combined with chance ending in either a catch or not. Every cast is like the pull of the handle on the slot machine. Every drift of the fly is like watching the pictures spin, hoping they line up into something when they come to a stop, whether it be a small fish or the catch of a life time. The colors of a sunset playing on the ripples of the water are like the bright lights and the sound effects of the slot machine, only adding to the grip it all has on you. You couldn’t turn and walk away even if you wanted to. That place where you’re guaranteed to never get skunked? That’s probably a jackpot that just doesn’t exist. I bet there’s days you couldn’t catch a fish in the aquarium at Sea World. Fish. Best poker faces in the world.