Humans like to believe that we are top tier predators. For most, it is true even without the use of weapons. For others, fearsome spiders and snakes reduce the ability to be any kind of predator at all. It is just a part of the human condition. Take away all we have and it wont be long before animals find out that we are delicious and slow bags of meat. What makes us the most voracious predator that walks the Earth is our ability to reason and control the environment around us. All predators do it to some degree. The Orca whale is a great example of this. Thanks to opposable thumbs of humans, we now drive cars with vanity mirrors and cup holders. To me, vehicular travel seems to be one of the most irrational things that humans have done. Why do I mention this? Imagine that there is only one car in the world. How much money and manpower would it take to create and maintain that single vehicle? You need a metal foundry, mines for each alloy, oil wells, refineries, and factories to produce all parts of the car. In terms of human survival, it makes no sense at all. According to some scholars and theorists, the only rational thing in existence is a computer or general computation, simple machines, artificial intelligence. To some degree, fish are simple machines with instinctual, rational thought. At least, this is how I see it. Days of a certain length, water of a specific temperature, optimal flows or height of water, and fish behavior can produce specific results. Fish do not retain memory of the past day, trout do not remember the exact look of the pteronarcys californica. They do know they are hungry around the second week of June. With this being said, there must be a certain instinctual reaction to insects. Much like a moth to flame. They just have to. Machines reacting to the environment.
It was day 33 in a row of work when I noticed a very distinct pain in my mouth. A tooth decided that it wanted to go. The pain was intense. The road trip that ensued was to get to a dentist, 4 hours southwest. I picked a doctor where I had planned on fishing, closer to where I grew up. Why not fish for something toothy when I had lost a tooth? It makes perfect sense to me, to desire the unattainable. Little did I know, my wisdom had slipped away, forcefully pulled from my mouth by a man given a doctorate by peers. Ironically, my line was also dangling in front of fish who should also have a doctorate. The elusive yet prolific Tiger Muskie, a true top tier predator. Their Achilles heel? Anything moving. The catch? They manipulate the environment around them, if your fly doesn’t fall within that harvestable world, kiss your chances goodbye. I see these fish as more curious and apt to strike at a moments notice. Very much like when your brother or sister points at you in the back seat of a car on a long road trip and proclaims, “I’m not touching you! I’m not touching you!” Instead of slapping your sibling or telling on them, in the Tiger Muskie world, you would just simply eat them. That seems pretty rational to me. Rationality, by definition, is having the ability to reason. When a muskie looms a couple feet away from your legs, staring down your fly, you can see reason taking place. You can tell the fish is thinking. You know that it can see you, but can it also see you reason? This is the point where it becomes a game…
Fishing is a sport. Plain and simple. Fishing is not a means to attain food. I’ll go to the store and buy a fish to eat before I sit behind a vise for hours designing, thinking, redesigning, rethinking, and repeating. There are so many options of materials in the world of streamers. They begin as just options for coloration and become materials for the science that is swim. Back in the water, predators do not sit reading books of what it is that you will tie, but everyday they will see something new. Something you might already be working on. Everyday you are gone, they learn, they evolve. I can not help but to think the predator also sees you as sport. Like a dog with a towel, it just wants to see if it can beat you one time. Since I feel that these fish are involved with this game, I must play it. The game does not lie in the fight, it is enticing predator and predator into that fight. The acknowledgement of two warriors about to engage in battle, because the fish knows you are there and the acknowledgement is taking your fly.
Although game theory leans into mathematics to hypothesize the rational outcome of an event involving two competitors, one competitor always wins. To further dive into the theory, what happens when two rational players are involved? One would think the universe will fold in upon itself and we would end up in an eternal stalemate. Unfortunately, there will be no universal paradoxical conundrums here. :( The simple answer here is both players end up with zero loss or only gain, renormalized rationality. When fishing for predators, we are in competition. A game of evolutionary gain. They call the muskie “the fish of ten-thousand casts”. To me, on cast ten-thousand, you have just changed the game. You dropped your guard and became more like prey. Your actions of stripping became lazier and more erratic, your casts shorter, you sat down and became tired. You changed the environment by accident and by doing so, invoked the wrath of an apex predator that never drops its guard. Next time you are out there on the water with predators, rather than constantly changing flies, play the game and manipulate the environment around you. Change your game and attitude and you will find your huckleberry.