The Fish Are Already Wet by Mark Usyk

Fishing in the rain is like doing just about anything else you might do outside in the rain. You’re going to get wet. Except that unlike other things, like say, a cook out, where you might put a tarp over the grill or the picnic table to keep them dry, the fish are already wet. So there really isn’t much of an excuse past a steady hammering downpour, and I’ve even fished in those a time or two, if for no other reason than I was already there, and the fishing was good leading up to the downpour. If it had been bad I might have used that as the excuse to fasten the fly in the hook keeper and turn back. But when you’re already soaked it’s too late to stay dry, and to that matter turning back for the dry space of a vehicle seems more like quitting than gaining anything. So to keep fishing when you’re already wet is really a nothing to lose situation.

Some might say not packing up because of a little rain is what separates the men from the boys, while others will argue that the fish bite the best when it’s raining. I’ll admit to using both excuses more than once to keep casting, whether I was catching anything or not. If there’s one thing fishermen are good at, it’s lying. And if there’s a close second, it’s making up excuses.

Of course there’s always the argument between Wang Chi and Egg Shen in Big Trouble in Little China. Wang Chi- “A brave man likes the feel of nature on his face, Jack.” Egg Shen- “Yeah, and a wise man has enough sense to get out of the rain!”

One time I was fishing up on the Black River near Watertown NY when a good storm moved in. It was a late afternoon after working all day, and since we had plenty of day light left, the guy I was on the road with for the week, my friend Dan Payne, asked me if I wanted to stop and fish before we went to the hotel. When he asked me it was more of rhetorical question. We both knew we were going to stop at the river since we’d seen the job location on the schedule the week before. I’d made it a point to make Dan remember to bring a fishing rod from the beginning, because I liked getting the guys I worked on the road with to hit the water with me when I could. Not to mention, if I could get someone else excited about fishing someplace after work then maybe they’d have more motivation to get the job done quicker during the day so that we wouldn’t stay any later than we had to, getting me to the water faster.

So there I was, on the river, catching lots of smallmouths, moving down river at a decent pace, when I felt a drop. And then another. I thought about the rain gear that was in the truck, but the truck was behind me, and the chances were I’d already be too wet to care about a rain jacket by the time I got to it anyhow, so I just kept fishing. The Black River in Watertown was one of my favorite rivers to fish on the road because it made you feel like you were far away from home. I was three hours from home, but I mean it made me feel real far away from home. Like out west somewhere. The river had cut through rock over millions of years here leaving shear rock walls showing lines and layers like the rings in a tree trunk, and on top of that, it meant a lot of climbing up and down ledges, hopping from rock to rock, and fishing pools at the ends of white water rushing through cracks and fissures or at the bottoms of small waterfalls from perches high above sometimes. I’d come to a perch looking down about fifteen feet on such a spot, a chute of water blasting out between two mammoth slabs of bedrock, and was making a cast when the deluge began.

I remember thinking a couple seconds before that the sky had turned that sickly looking yellowish color that skies can turn when a bad storm is overhead, and only a few seconds before that thinking that the breeze had come to a complete standstill and the temperature had dropped several degrees. I made the first cast down into the pool below and no sooner than had I seen a flash of bronze strike at my streamer did the wind start shaking the trees like a momma bear trying to get her cub out of a tree and the rain began to fall in buckets. I went from dry to soaked to the bone in a matter of seconds, but because I’d just seen a fish miss my streamer the second cast was already a given. As well as the third, and forth, and however many more it took to hook a fish or finally loose hope, but I can tell you that the rain and wind hadn’t deterred me. They came up to fast to give me time to think about quitting, and now, well, just like the fish, I was already wet.


And then a crack of lightening, the kind close enough that you hear the air around you sizzle before and after the flash and that makes all the hair on your body stand up brought me back to reality. My body tensed, my head tried to retreat down into my neck like a turtle’s would in its shell, and I low crawled for about fifty feet through a thin patch of trees and undergrowth, hoping that lightening indeed wouldn’t strike twice today.

JP and I were fishing in the rain today. It made me think of this story. There was no lightening, no wind, and we both actually had rain gear on, so aside from wet hands, we stayed dry. But the one thing today had in common with the Black River up in Watertown four or five years ago? The fish were already wet, so you may as well go try anyhow. It’s no excuse.