Fishing as a sport has often been described as an activity mostly consisting up of long periods of boredom followed by short and intense periods of exciting activity. While this proposition is not entirely untrue, the statement misses the point of the exercise entirely and fails to underscore the importance of the events that happen outside those moments of intense activity – which for many is a big part of why they fish. The down time between catching fish allows us those requisite moments of respite from civilization for solitary reflection and introspection, observation and thought about the quarry and nature, or of time to talk and further deepen a close friendship. If one takes a moment to think about it, if we only fished to catch fish that the whole enterprise could logically be viewed as an exceedingly productive way to waste ones time. The scientific method and catch statistics can back me up on this. Should one be so inclined to do the mathematical calculations of catch rates vs. effort or hours fished they would also quickly arrive at the conclusion that ninety percent of their time was spent staring at their inert lines and not much else. In the real world people get fired for such a lack of productivity. But here is where logic and mathematics fall to the wayside and where statistics hold no currency.
The numbers always fail to recognize the existential moments that occur during these long periods of inactivity, the perfect moments of life that exist between the lines of motion, the crack of light that emerges through the shadows, bringing with it both hope and meaning. The statistics don’t account for the satisfaction of casting perfect loops of line that unfurl like poetry over a page of unwritten water, still brimming with hope and promise. Or for the way a sunset moves us all to silence and wonder about the magic that is our world. Nor do they recognize the memories that are built and the friendships that are forged during these periods of boredom: they cannot explain the prose that is all flowing water, or the breath-taking sight of an eagle soaring high above in the sky. Nor do they explain a myriad of other individual reasons that keep all of us drawn back to waters of a sorts. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter if we don’t catch fish.
Fishing is one of those enigmatic activities in that most thoughtful people who have been doing it for a while will tell you that catching fish is not always paramount to the activity of fishing. A recent study in Alberta seems confirms this by noting inadvertently during a study on catch rates that anglers were not necessarily attracted to high catch rate fisheries, and suggested that angler behavior is very complex and not driven by catch rates alone. This perspicacious finding was a by-catch of a creel analysis study on catch rates and as such the reasons behind this complex angler behavior were not included in the study parameters, only briefly commented upon by the research team. As their research on the subject deepens, they will no doubt discover that there are far more subtle factors at work determining what makes up a good day of fishing that can’t be accounted for by statistical analysis or catch rates.