Fishing has been a bit tough right now down here in Baja lately.
Some days there’s a lot of smiles. Other days…well, maybe not so much. The smiles are a little more forced.
There’s a lot of factors that go into a fishing day and any one of them can be the difference in a good day, a great day or a stinky day.
You can do something about some of them. Some other things are just the way they are. You roll with them.
Of course, there’s the natural factors like weather, wind, heat, current and bait.
There’s the mechanical factors like the boat, the equipment, or the technology.
Then, there’s the human factor. Oh my, that list is long.
Of course, there’s also plain-dumb-luck too!
Again, some things you can do something about. Some others…well…they just are what they are. But, it all comes to the table.
I had an interesting study in contrasts last week. I had two groups of fishermen. They all had some success, but overall fishing was scratchy. It was really a pull. Compared to previous years, it was rugged fishing with long days in the sunshine punctuated by the occasional bite.
The fish were there. Conditions seemed right. But, for whatever reason, the fish “lockjawed” on us. You’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. It happens.
The head of one group made it pretty clear he wasn’t happy.
As each day wore on, he got a little more sullen. A little less ebullient. There was less chest pounding. He was making less and less eye-contact with me.
He wasn’t saying anything directly to me, but the vibe was not good. Anyone who has ever been in the sportfishing business knows the feeling.
Everyone says, “It’s fishing, not catching” until they are the party that’s not catching. Believe me!
The level of “jolliness” was slipping away.
Unfortunately, it was rubbing off on his group as well. It’s toxic. How the leader goes so goes the troops. Naturally.
And that’s too bad because as often happens, as the enthusiasm wanes, the energy level wilted right along with it.
They weren’t trying as hard. They were mailing it in. Like the 2nd half of a game…down by 20 and just wanting to take the ball and get off the field.
At the end of trips, before anglers head home, I like to chat with them and assess things. It’s always better when things go right and the sun stayed out and the fish bite.
Getting high-fived at the end is great.
It’s so much harder to face a group, knowing that you did everything you could to make it work, but there are things that couldn’t be controlled. Simply put, sometimes the fish just don’t cooperate.
So facing a group or leader that had a bad outing is like taking that long walk to the principle’s office. And you know it’s not gonna be good.
The head of the first group and his guys said, it was “OK.” Just OK. I heard comments about the weather…the bait…the currents…the wind…
It’s what I expected. They shook my hand climbed in the vans back to the airport and off they went. I doubt I’ll be seeing them again. No one’s fault. We just didn’t shine down here as far as fishing was concerned.
Then there was the head of the other group. And his guys.
Again, a very experienced angler.
He and his gang fished the same waters as the other group. Used the same gear. More or less had the same results. Some good. Some bad.
Like the other group, it was their first “Baja adventure.” You just never want first-timers to have a bad time.
Obviously, we want everyone to have a good time. Surely, we want everyone to also come back. Returning happy clientele is what makes or breaks any business. No matter what you do.
It was my turn to say adios to them as well.
With some trepidation, I started out apologizing for the crummy fishing.
“I’m really sorry the fishing wasn’t…”
The head of the group stopped me right there.
What followed was one of the most refreshing comments I’ve heard in more than 30 years in the fishing industry.
He said, “That’s not your fault. We had a great time and can’t wait to come back.”
“Uh…really?” I said with some skepticism. “You’re joking right?”
He went on to say with a grin, “The fish were there. Everything looked good. You did everything you could and more. Your captains busted their rears working. We’ve fished all over and sometimes fishing is just…well…it’s fishing.” And he laughed and slapped me on the back.
“When the fish don’t bite, it simply means that ‘I’m not good enough.’”
That caught me by surprise! “You’re not good enough?”
“All fish eat. All fish hunt. As a sportfisherman, my task and challenge is to find a way to get them to bite. If they don’t bite, then I have work to do. There’s something else I need to learn. There’s something else I need to improve.”
“Maybe it was my bait presentation. Maybe it was the color of my line. Maybe we trolled when I should have drifted. Maybe it was just luck and I should have worn my lucky green shirt instead of my lucky red shirt.”
He added, “To me, putting that right combination together is what makes it fun. That’s why I want to come back to fish here again and solve that puzzle. That’s why my whole group wants to come back. We learn. We get better. We learn from each other and we learn from the fish! “
“We have work to do before we come back! And we’ll be back. And the fish I missed this time will only be that much bigger next time. But, I will also be that much smarter!”
Every now and then…even the principal surprises you.