What is it about -that- fish? The one that got away.
Was it the biggest fish you’ve ever hooked? The fish that would make the whole trip? The whole year? Your lifetime? What makes us so upset to lose that fish?
The planning and execution. The time invested. The money put forth to get the angler into that perfect position. Everything, be it smooth or not, has led up to that moment. The moment when -that- fish takes the presentation. Whether it was a beautifully crafted fly, or a stinking bloody piece of bait, the angler has now hooked -that- fish, and the fight is on.
For some, the reason to fish is complex. The thrill of the chase, the experience, or the sport as a whole drives the angler. The reason, whatever it may be, is what justifies the angler’s need to spend money on gear or completely consume his or her time. Though it’s often not about the fish, but the chance to fish and the experience involved with it, when -that- fish strikes it is suddenly the most important thing in the angler’s mind.
Now I’m not speaking of a strong strike, or even a brief screaming of the drag. I’m talking about a real honest-to-God fight. Ten minutes, twenty minutes, an hour, two hours. Often the longer the fight, the worse it hurts when the fish gets away. While that fish is on the line, it is only you and the fish. As the fight continues, you will eventually see it. Seeing the fish makes the desire to land it even stronger. It jumps, makes a run toward the boat, or circles the wader. When it’s seen, that’s when the angler knows it’s -that- fish. It craftily circles the boat out of gaff range, uses the current to its advantage, or avoids the landing net by mere inches. During the fight, you almost feel as though you know the fish. You can already taste it on the grill, or see the pictures that will soon make everyone on Facebook green with envy. You look forward to retelling the tale, like all fishermen do, and maybe even exaggerating bits and pieces here and there. Anyone can disbelieve a story. It’s hard to challenge the picture. You simply -must- land this fish.
The fight continues on. You employ everything you’ve learned along your fishing career. You keep tension as you stumble over rocks. You keep the line from tangling up in the nearby trees. You even manage to swing the fish away from the hungry alligators, sharks, or barracudas. The fish is nearly yours. It’s almost within grasp. Everything has gone right and the moment you’ve been waiting for is at hand.
Then it happens.
The line snaps. The hook pulls. And you watch as -that- fish slips away.
You simply cannot believe it. The fish that had just consumed minutes…hours of your life has just slipped away. No landing. No glory picture. No grilling. No nothing. Just a broken hook or line.
You soon begin to question everything. Was there a knot in the line? Did you force the fish too much? What if you had just gone ahead and spent the money on stronger hooks? What if you let it tire itself out longer? Or gotten it in sooner? What if, what if, what if….
What if there was nothing you could have done? What if what you did would have worked 99 times out of 100? Should you change anything?
None of this matters now, of course. -That- fish is now gone, and chances are, it’ll never be fooled into biting again.
Questions remains though: Was that really the fish of the trip? The year? Your lifetime? Will you try to hook that fish again? Or even ones like it? Could there even be a bigger or better fish?
You must remember the reasons why you fish in the first place. The experience. The thrill of the chase. The entire atmosphere of it. The reasons to fish must outweigh the pain and frustration of the loss. One thing is for sure, and it’s the fact that -that- fish will never be landed if you don’t continue fishing. Keep at it. Tie on another hook or fly. It’s your hobby. Your sport. Your passion.
After all, few want to hear or believe the story of the one that got away.
Everyone wants to hear the story of -that- fish you landed.