It’s a mystery to me, but it seems like I have several strong mental pictures from my early fishing days of fish that I never caught or saw, but which continue to haunt me to this day because of what might have been on my line! Why do I still recall these moments as if I were again right there? In most cases these memories are more powerful than the ones I have about big fish I did land! It intrigues me that my brain has put these seemingly random experiences right up there with my most successful moments. Why?
My Dad and I were fishing Millerton for stripers and I was about 16. We fished with anchovies and he decided to go back into this little cove we had never tried before to soak our bait. An hour later, it was nearing sunset and the shadows were falling fast as I excitedly watched the tip of my pole for a bite and saw a very slight movement. But the line wasn’t going out like I expected it to. What was going on? I started reeling in when it hit me. The line was slack and seemed to be heading straight under the boat. No wonder I hadn’t felt anything. Reeling faster, I tried to catch up with the line now headed for the back of the cove! Something was swimming along with my bait in the wrong direction. This was the moment I was waiting for, and I reeled down and waited to set the hook. My anticipation was frantic as I envisioned a huge striper gulping down my offering. I felt the fish moving and set the hook hard (for I thought would be an epic battle with a beast) on nothing! The fish had taken my bait and moved a good 75 feet in the opposite direction. So how could I have so badly missed my golden opportunity? My Dad questioned whether I had ever really had one taking the bait. I sat in the dark and pondered my epic failure.
That seemingly unimportant encounter haunted me for years. It could have just been a little striper out snacking, but in my heart I felt like I had lost a world record that was “just that close!” I pondered what I should have done, and if I would ever get another chance like that. I can still feel the whole thing.
My other seemingly random but deep-seated memory was of a bite I had at Hensley Lake on a rubber worm when I was about 19. Sitting on top of a rock in a cove, I was working a brush pile when I had a small tap alert me to a bass biting my purple worm crawling along the bottom. Waiting a few seconds for the bass to get it down (we did that back then!), I watched the twitching line before I set the hook and the fish exploded to deeper water. It overwhelmed my bass rod and 8-pound test line as it streaked away for 20 feet — then the hook pulled out! I suddenly questioned whether I let it run long enough or set the hook correctly. Once again, that experience began playing out in my mind like before! I had lost tons of bass, but why was this so different?
I read that behavioral scientists find the emotion of regret can be powerful — sometimes stronger than winning! They said some folks “feel the pain of regret acutely” when they have a seemingly “lost opportunity.” Hmm … Maybe that’s why it’s common for anglers to talk more of the ones that got away. I think some anglers spend a lot of their time reliving the moment they feel their cherished dream could have been fulfilled, whether true or not! Our imaginations are powerful, especially when mixed with regret. Tony Palermo texted me a beaut: “Only dead fish go with the flow!” Cosmic! Never give up!
Aqueduct stripers back in the bite, Merritt Gilbert said. Success Bass bite turns on, Chuck Stokke reported. Don Pedro bass and trout hitting, Monte Smith said. New Melones, “it’s go time for bass,” John Lietchy said. Shaver trout big and hungry, Dick Nichols reported. Delta bass, sturgeon and stripers biting, Alan Fong said.