Crew (aka darn cat) knew the warning signs: Captain was a bit more quiet than usual and was keeping to himself more than the requirements of command dictated. Captain had been out-maneuvered and did not like it one bit.
Captainâ€™s years of moderate success at club level tournament bass fishing in central and northern California, especially in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, finally caught up with him. His normal protests that many others did much better and were more qualified had fallen on deaf ears.
The Admiralty, which asked for years that Captain outline his approach to bass fishing as part of survival training; had finally left Captain no alternative - his orders left no room for interpretation. It was a dark day; Captain felt he was being forced to betray a lifetime of confidences.
Not that he was telling secrets anyone had told him, or secrets of any kind for that matter, but Captain felt The Delta had schooled him over the years and it was somehow disrespectful and presumptuous to give away what was The Deltaâ€™s to teach through time on the water. Crew watched Captain go through a too-familiar struggle between his conscience and his sense of duty.
Crew also knew the minute Captain reconciled himself to duty â€“ as he always did. Captainâ€™s already straight shoulders and back somehow got straighter: not in a heavy lifting, forced-effort way, but as if the weight had just floated away. Crew knew Captain had cleared his mind of the conflict and would do his best, perhaps not as The Admiralty saw it, but as Captainâ€™s sense of duty dictated.
Captainâ€™s report to The Admiralty:
â€œFirst, Captain disclaims mastery and suggests skepticism of those who claim it loudly. Captain urges those faced with fishing opportunity to be open to information from all sources without being seduced by any one source â€“ especially any that claim unique access to truth. Choose any master carefully. The truth will speak for itself to the quiet mind of the true student.
Second, observe what works for you - carefully. Think about your own successes, however minor and infrequent, and begin to draw your own conclusions. Do not mimic others unless you have no better strategy for the moment. In the end each successful student must let the truth teach them.
Third, do not let a simple activity become complicated. The fish are not smart and have not changed their instinctive reactions in millions of years. Keep your approach simple, especially at first. Avoid introducing complexity: discipline yourself to keep the variables few in number. More casts with a small number of baits or lures in a few types of places or conditions is better than a few casts with many bait types, colors, actions, scents, etc. in every place or condition you come across.. Each angler must trust that The Delta will reveal its secrets to the patient and methodical.
Fourth, take note of tide and wind-created current. Delta fish are river fish. Like all river fish, survival has conditioned them to conserve energy. They ambush from within eddies or current breaks behind obstacles: rocks, wood, water weeds, manmade objects, etc. Successful students cast to ask the fish what food they want, and where and how they want their food presented. More precise questions get clearer answers.
Fifth, easier conditions for fish teach less. As dim light predators, bass enjoy it early, late, and when there is significant cloud or fog cover from the sun. As predators conditioned by survival to favor mild current to conserve energy, bass enjoy the start of tide movement, whether at high or low, and in mild wind conditions. Success in these conditions teaches that students should seek out these conditions and enjoy them while they last, but teach only about fish behavior when these conditions exist â€“ which may be little of the time.
Sixth, the reverse of number five: hard conditions for fish teach more. Bass tend not to enjoy bright sun, no tide or wind currents, or relatively strong tide or wind currents. Studentsâ€™ questions to the fish in these conditions must be very precise and students must be prepared for very subtle answers â€“ or no answers at all. Patience and very precise repetitive questions, or relocation to areas of different conditions (running to different areas to get back into a given stage of tide, and targeting shade, for example) suggest themselves as strategies. Lack of success in these conditions teaches that students should avoid these conditions or endure them while they last, but also teach much about fish behavior when these conditions exist â€“ which may be much of the time.
Seventh, know yourself. If a student is most themselves at a fast or slow pace, then chose to fish that way â€“ and be aware that you may need to fish out of your comfort zone to be successful at a given time. Every student has limits to their patience; do not try to force more than you have at a given time â€“ but consider cultivating more for next time. If you are happy with numbers of smaller fish, then fish for them. If you are happy with a fewer number of larger fish, then learn to fish for them. Successful students are students of themselves.
Eighth, define success for yourself. For example, Captainâ€™s fun fishing definition of success: the boat does not sink, no one falls overboard, and we catch at least one fish (the skunk is out of the boat).
Ninth, study the verities. Certain lessons seem to have stood the test of time, see if they work for you. Examples: swings are free â€“ set the hook early and often; if the biteâ€™s slight go light â€“ use smaller baits, weights, and line; and, if itâ€™s bright go light (colors). Students should consider beginning - and testing - their own collection.â€
StocktonDon - fishing, diving, sailing, and wondering what's just around the next point. (A pen name for quasi-fictional-hopefully-amusing stuff by dwest.)