Monday, April 5, 2010

Beginners Luck

Have you ever noticed how first time anglers have such a great success rate? Is it patience, an openness to learning, or just plain luck? Let's explore all three.

When it comes to patience a person brand new to salmon fishing unknowingly has a ton of it. They don't know what a bite looks or feels like so they sit and wait. They watch for the obvious sign, like the rod bending into the letter "C", and by the time this is recognized there is no need to set the hook as the fish has already done that for them. One of my favorite examples of this was the first time Tony Hochmayr fished for king salmon on the Kenai. We were just setting up in the troll and his line wasn't out more than a couple of minutes and a fish hit. He said to me, "is this a fish?" With the drag screaming and the rod bent in half I told him you better take the rod out of the holder because it was a fish. On the flip side, seasoned salmon anglers will usually get excited and set the hook on the first indication of a bite. Often the hook set is premature well before the fish had an opportunity to fully ingest the bait. Ummm, even today yours truly can be guilty of this mistake, that is, being impatient when a fish first bites.

Now let's look at an openness to learn or what I would call being "coachable." Growing up in Minnesota I played three sports and the one thing that I was taught was to be coachable. It wasn't the coaches that instilled that in me, it was my dad. He told me it was important to respect and listen to people of experience and if your coach told you to be the first player in on the forecheck, you were the first player in on a forecheck. Anyway, I can't tell you how many times in the boat I will have a husband and wife fishing with me and the wife will immediately announce, "I don't know what I'm doing so tell me how this works." They listen to what is being said and then they apply it. It's amazing how the husband will go fishless and his wife will catch all the fish that day. This is being coachable and I see it in men, women, and children all season long. I also see people do whatever they want regardless of the "coaching" and more often than not it results in a fishless day.

Now finally, luck. I've often said that I believe in luck, and the harder I work the more of it I get. This philosophy is fine and it's served me well, but what about beginners luck? I have the mindset that if a person new to salmon fishing uses the right gear, makes the perfect cast, and does everything right to solicit a bite there isn't a whole lot of luck involved. Whether someone told you how to do this (your guide) or you learned this on your own you created your own luck. To me luck is having everything fall into place and it's not some haphazard, randomness in the cosmos (hey mom, my philosophy minor is paying off!!!).

To sum it all up, in my eyes patience and being coachable contribute more to the overall catch rate for the beginner than being lucky.

P.S. the angler pictured is Nick. He'll tell you the reason he caught a king and his dad didn't was because of SKILL, not LUCK!


Anonymous said...


I know you are known by many as the best guide on the Kenai, but what a display of literary skill! It’s definitely been cold winter in Florida and based on the series of impressive essays, a much colder Minnesota winter….Riley remembers the fancy pants
Lure…... Almost failed for the Salmon story until I counted the Planks on your dock!…….How about reserving us a couple a spots for Hobo Jim on June 19… missed him in 08.

Looking forward to seeing you in a couple months

Anonymous said...

June 19th is a Saturday and that means no fishing for me on Sunday. The four of us will definitely go see Hobo at his new location. Can't wait.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Keith: Hey Jane


Heidi Holtan said...

Great essay Keef! I remember dad telling us "you make your own luck"?