Have you ever had a severe case of the “fish itch?” When the itch to go fishing is so bad that the thought of fishing is all-consuming. And scratching body parts won’t be the cure. It begins with an occasional memory of past fish. Then it mushrooms into thinking about fish that you probably should have caught but didn’t, lost by either tactical errors, equipment failures, or not paying attention and getting caught up in the moment. It happens.
These fishing scenes multiply in the back corners of the mind and slowly consume more memory space moving forward. The fish itch often gets to the point where it can drive a person crazy thinking about it. And then you either must go fishing in an attempt to mentally redeem yourself or just adjust your mindset to release the itch and struggle to ignore it.
If the fish itch affliction goes unattended, the body may undergo fluctuations in temperature change relative to the setting of your adventure. The body temperature in thought can range hot to cold. The fish itch may begin with thoughts from a tropical setting standing in clear blue saltwater and white sand with summer temps to a western cold surrounded in snowflakes while standing in a Montana stream watching midges hatch like popcorn. There is always that extraordinary experience within each trip that I yearn for again. At times I cannot quit thinking about what causes me to constantly have the fish itch.
Every fisherperson has one of those moments. You look down and imagine the fly rod in your hand and start to move the arm back as if to recast. The knuckles are tight with the empty cinched hand. Then you suddenly realize that it’s time to fix the fish itch quickly. Solving the puzzle and releasing the anxiety the fish itch is causing can be problematic. The diagnosis is simple.
For me, the fish itch can usually be temporarily handled with a fly-fishing trip somewhere. I try to move on to cure the diagnosis and create a new adventure.
Apprehension can make the fish itch almost unbearable. Should I go, maybe or maybe not. Then I think about what projects or honey-do’s need to be done beforehand, check to see what’s on the schedule for the next day, and then ponder some more. Procrastination does not bode well when consumed with the fish itch.
Lighting the fuse from the power of suggestion can explode during this time of fish itch distress. Especially when a text from a friend creates a nervous and uncontrollable fish itch tension. I had thought about going fishing but didn’t pursue the thought too deeply. When the text came through and stated, “Winds are dying down tomorrow evening, the lake should be flat,” it begins again.
The excess rains lately here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains caused high water in the rivers and forced me to think lake thoughts. Then the text about “no winds” came in. There is no choice but to focus on flyfishing the lake. Striper fishing at night seems to be a portrait taking shape on my easel.
Telling my wife, I am thinking about fishing tonight on the lake, and the conversation follows pretty much this order.
“Honey, thinking about hitting the lake to chase some stripers with those new flies I tied up this morning. They look so good I may bite into one.”
“What?” then there is a moment of silence and hesitation, coupled with a look that insinuates I may be crazy.
“Do you know how cold it’s going to be?”
“Yes, low in the mid 20’s, but we’ll be fine.” As the conversation continues, I realize that any hesitation I might have had about going fishing is leaving. I wasn’t really looking for approval but instead actually talking myself into a fishing trip. She had verified I was crazy years ago.
Then I state the scientific factors to close out the deal and justify my fishing existence while making the futile attempt to satisfy any procrastination that may be left.
I expressed and shared my knowledge to her, “The barometric pressure is about perfect. All four wind apps state the breeze to be 3-4 knots. Perfect. The moon is a waxing crescent and will set around 9 pm. A dark winter evening with plenty of stars. The next front won’t come in until after lunch tomorrow as more rain approaches by the weekend. Better go tonight while the climate window is open.”
I had just talked myself into the trip and replied a time for my friends to meet me, hook up my boat and begin a new adventure. With a fatherly tone, I reminded them to dress warm! The itch has me in total control. The best time to fish is whenever you can get away, but there are those moments when the “fishing itch” helps to bring it into reality at a much quicker pace.
As I pulled the boat out of the marina and looked west, on that particular night, dusk was spectacular. Had I not gone fishing, I would have missed this magnificent sunset. Outdoor adventures always generate special visual moments that define each outing, and I felt honored and lucky to witness this.
With the navigation lights and GPS ready and functional, a quick safety check and I headed down the lake to big water. Stars reflected in the mirrored stillness, and the lake was like a glass tabletop. I almost felt guilty about creating a wake in the presence of all this tranquility. No reason to hurry. Just enjoy the cold ride, anticipate the fish bite, and enjoy some quality time with some of my fishing family. I was indeed scratching my “fish itch” now with both hands.
On nights like that, memories of sitting in the boat looking up at the cathedral of stars and occasionally catching a glimpse of a falling star, hoping my wish for a giant striper is fulfilled. The coffee smells better as I open the thermos to pour a sip. The hot coffee makes my warm breath denser in the chilly evening.
The fishing action was slow, but we managed to break off several fish with my new fly pattern and did indeed catch a few nice ones. Tonight was not a numbers game regarding fish but a cure to stop the fish itch.
When the itch strikes, there is no guarantee the fish will bite, the wind won’t blow, the river won’t rise, nor will the fish feed. But at least it helps with the hesitation when other life factors try to cloud the fishing judgment of a fine outdoor adventure.
Every fly fisherman has their own unique patterns and confidence breeds fish bites. Below is a combination of several patterns that have proven effective for lake stripers.
Hook Size 2/0- 4
(Monofilament loop on backbend to keep rabbit fur from tangling in hook)
White Rabbit Strips (occasional light gray and chartreuse work) 1.5 X shank length
Wrap a couple turns of UV white marabou
2-3 strands gold mylar flash on each side
White rabbit cross-cut wrapped tight and fluffed out next to the conehead