What Luck?


The topic of "luck" was brought up in another forum so now's a good time to post this bit.

What Luck?
Gene Trump

Contrary to the belief of the populace, anglers are not the superstitious lot they are generally maligned to be. The terms "luck" or "jinx" simply are not part of the fly fishers vocabulary. They do, however, have the uncanny sense to know what NOT to say or do.

For example; during the midst of a Spring rain shower, the seasoned fisher would never make a comment such as "Well, at least it ain't snowing!". Nor would he say anything as utterly stupid as "It can't rain any harder". Fact is, the wise angler would never make a comment on the weather at all. They know that the spoken word has the undeniable power to turn a nice, warm sunny day into a miserable mess of snow, wind, rain, lightening and hail.

"Wow guys, what a beautiful day!"

"Dang it all, Ed! Now you've done it! Look at them clouds move in! Ouch! That hail's the size of bass bugs!"

We all know fishing can never be too good or too easy so there is never a situation that could arise that would justify making a comment to that effect. A friend once made such a ridiculous statement while fishing Yellowstone River and didn't catch a fish for the rest of the day or the week following.
Another sure-fire way to foul up a nice solitary fishing trip is to wonder aloud where all the other fishermen are. This type of careless wondering will generate a mob of anglers that will line the shore for miles on both banks. Always keep your wondering to yourself.

The lucky fishing hat may or may not be a myth. This subject is far too complicated to go into within the space allotted. Suffice it to say some anglers have been known to be tarred and feathered for wearing the wrong hat.

It is a myth that anglers believe it is unlucky to wash the fishing vest. It is a scientific fact that a dirty, smelly, well-worn fishing vest will not only give you the power of Neptune to catch all the fish you could ever hope to catch but it is also a proven fact that washing the vest will inflict a curse that will prohibit you from ever catching another fish for the rest of your natural, and part of your unnatural life. Besides, the glare from a clean vest spooks fish.

The prudent casters of the fly have learned from years of research that down-playing any potential fishing success is generally best. This method is called a double negative or a reverse Murphy. The more you complain about lousy weather, too high and off-color water and the fact you got up so danged early to waste your time to not catch fish -- the better your chances of doing really well. A reverse Murphy. Everything that is supposed to go wrong, will go right. I have a fishing buddy who practices this the minute we wade into a stream. The uninformed may misinterpret his constant whining and complaining about the poor fishing as merely that of a disgruntled angler, but I know he's just pulling a reverse Murphy. At least I think he is. He does seem to whine no matter if we're catching fish or not. I'd wonder about it if it wasn't a very bad idea to do so.

So there you have it. In reality, anglers are not the superstitious folk they are thought to be, but instead, just plain folk that happen to be highly attuned to the ways of the universe and the cosmos. There is no room for "luck" or "jinx" in our part of the fishing galaxy. We are very scientific, skilled sportspeople that seek our goals in the utmost sophisticated, intelligent manner that results in the successful catching of aquatic lifeforms of our choice.

Knock on wood.



Oregon Member
Okay, Gene, that got me thinking back a few years to when Bill caught a brace of steelhead after he said:

"Catching Steelhead is Cake"

Up until now I've always been careful about how I approach my steelhead fishing.

From the basics, like triple washing my hands after exposure to petroleum products, to the more subtle like touching the fly as little as possible to avoid leaving human scent, I've always been painstakingly aware of anything that could cause my day on the river to go awry.

Avoiding black cats was a no brainer. I was careful with mirrors. I wouldn't even use salt on my scrambled eggs on mornings I planned to fish so there wasn't the chance I would spill it.

But, beyond all else, by mutual agreement, none of us--myself nor anyone I've ever fished with--has ever uttered a word or phrase that could result in a jinx being visited upon us. Most especially, we'd never, ever, under any circumstances, say something like: "Steelheading is cake."

We've been quite vigilant. If one of us had a momentary gaff, slipped up, and actually said something that even remotely resembled a jinx provoking word, we would immediately knock on wood.

As often is the case with such offhand comments, they would happen whilst we were enroute to the river, speeding down the highway. Such moments would inevitably be followed by an exchange of a glance as the realization of what just occurred sank in. Then there'd be a brief but desperate search of the vehicle for any kind of wood.

Finding none, the driver would gently tap the brakes, we'd come to a halt, and all of us would quickly peal ourselves off the windshield (man I gotta start wearin' a seat belt), leap from the car and run to the nearest tree or fence post.

The shaken fist from the guy who was following us [It almost looked like he was showing us the finger he had sprained while attempting not to rear-end us, but it was hard to tell through all the smoke left by the skidding tires] and the gaping stares of passers by were small price to pay for preserving our chances of having a successful day.

But Bill said it, "cake." And, then he caught a fish. He went a step further and told several people how "easy" it is to catch steelhead, and then he went out and caught yet another one. It really gave me something to think about.

So, last weekend, I decided to put this whole jinx thing to the test. While on the road to Three Rivers with a buddy, I calmly said, "So you think we'll each catch a couple by noon?"

Hearing a noise to my right, I took my eyes off the road for long enough to look over at my passenger who, just that fast, had his feet braced against the dash and was attempting to gain a grip on the ceiling with both hands.

Hmm, probably should have told him about my little experiment.

A short while later, against Tim's profuse objections, I flung a few more loaded aspirations out into mid air. They seemed to bounce harmlessly enough off the nearby rocks and trees as we approached the river.

"You think we'll catch our limits?" I asked. Tim scolded, but I noticed he began casting anyway.

Well, long story short, we each caught a fish within the first 40 minutes. I hooked and lost another.

Finally, half an hour later, I set the hook on a feisty little chrome hen that leaped and ran and peeled line from my reel.

Knowing it was a hatchery fish, I couldn't resist one more: "Boy I hope we get this fish in, because I want to have it for dinner."

A couple of hours later, I got my wish.

Know what? This steelheading really is cake!


Phil, you always catch steelhead as often, or more, than any other flyfisher I know. It doesn't surprise me in the least that you can mess with the fish'n gods when it comes to catching steelhead.


Oregon Member
:rolleyes: Yikes! If jinxes are real, you just took out my season.

Now what'd I do with that darned rabbit's foot? I know I had it around here somewhere... ;)