Thursday, May 25, 2017

Edison, Bukowski and four dollars

A while back I was at the Mobil getting gas with my coffee and ran into a guy I know who had bought one fly from me at a fly show the previous winter. We were about two months into striper season so I asked him how the fishing had been. He told me that he had not caught any striped bass on the fly I sold him and asked if I offered a money-back guarantee. I choked a little on my coffee and inquired where he had been fishing. He told me the location and reiterated that the fly had not caught any fish. Either time he had been out.

“Either time, as in twice?”

“Yeah, both times, nothing…I don’t think it works.”

I suddenly thought of Thomas Edison saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work” when describing his work to improve the filament in the incandescent light bulb.

I reached for my phone to show my customer pictures of a dozen fish recently caught on the same fly he was questioning but chose the high road and bit my tongue. I thanked him for his business and gave him back his four dollars.

Half of it in coins.

Just because.

I thought about that encounter a couple of mornings ago as I sat in traffic on the commute to The Cube. Cruising north at seven miles per hour I watched people in the other cars applying face paint, taking selfies, updating their global status and one dude rolling a number. Traffic came to a halt as a radio commercial touted the “immediate results” of some magic pill. Instant gratification seems to dictate most of what we do. Mass media, marketing and advertising, social media influencers, hashtags – we’re all manipulated by the profit in impatience.

We’re messed up, I get it. At times I’m both a perpetrator and a casualty of the game and to be contrite I’ll be checking Blogger an hour after I post this to see how many views it gets.

There is a phrase we use in fishing about a particular catch being a “fish of a thousand casts.” Much like Edison and the carbonized filament, there are times that the difference between fishing and catching is the result of persistence. Despite all the fancy gear, the electronics technology and real-time information available today, in the end, it comes down to putting in the time, cast after cast, sometimes day after day.

A friend of mine from Nantucket, Chris Lydon, recently sent me an email that illustrates this.

“I have been dying to get a bass on those foam popper flies since last season. I don’t know why, but it’s been a personal mission. I spent a lot of time at the end of last season searching for my final bass with them to no avail. I’ve been tying it on a lot this year so far. I have had countless missed strikes, explosions and tail swirls but yesterday I finally got the deal done. All the heartache was worth it. In my opinion, there is no more exciting way to catch a bass than watching it come up and clobber a popper.”
Photo by Chris Lydon

Charles Bukowski said it best; “Any asshole can chase a skirt, art takes discipline.”

I have no idea in what context Bukowski made his remark. If you've read Bukowski, well, use your imagination. I’d like to think it’s universal and can be applied to just about anything, especially fishing.

Merriam - Webster lists one definition of art as “skill acquired by experience, study, or observation.” The same could be said of fly fishing.

The season is upon us. Be persistent.

And keep making art.

South River, MA
25 May 2017


  1. Nice piece Mike !! Good luck this season and hope to see you soon!

  2. Great read as always, Mike. Thanks for the post.