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Here’s the proof that timing is everything

One of the things no one has ever written about extensively is the best time to lose a big fish. Is it best to lose one at the beginning, middle or end of the fishing outing?

Not to brag, but I am one of the world’s leading experts on the subject, especially if you concede that big is in the eyes of the beholder, and also that the fewer witnesses there are, the bigger a fish gets.

With that in mind, here’s what I have learned.

A big fish, as we all know, has the ability to break your heart like nothing else. If you think I’m exaggerating, it’s only because you haven’t brought up the biggest fish you have ever seen of a particular species and lost it at the side of your boat.

Forget lost loves, wrong turns in life, and missed opportunities, this is what great loss is truly all about. And it is also the main reason anglers look upon the movie “Jaws” as a romantic tragedy.

In my estimation, the best time to lose a big fish is at the beginning of a fishing trip. Yes, it hurts. But at least it gives you hope that there are big fish in the waters, and you have a whole day ahead of you to catch them.

The only exception to this rule is if the fish was lost because your former fishing buddy was clumsy with the net. Then this makes the day awkward and silent.

Losing a big fish in the middle of the outing is slightly worse but not altogether horrible. It’s good because you can convince yourself you figured out how to attract a big fish and it also leaves you optimistic because you still have half the outing left to put that into practice.

The only exception to this rule is if the fish was lost because your former fishing buddy was clumsy with the net. Then this makes the remainder of the day awkward and silent.

Worst, in my experience, is losing a big fish at the end of the outing. This makes you doubt your decision to leave because hooking a big fish that late is evidence that they are just getting active. This causes you to resent the reasons that compel you to leave – that being your spouse, family, work, social commitments, jury duty, life-saving medical procedures, fiscal responsibilities, food and water supply, darkness, gale-force winds, the need for long-term food and shelter and the requirement to connect to the outside world in general.

On the plus side, it gives you cause to be optimistic about your next visit.

The only exception to this rule is if the fish was lost because your former fishing buddy was clumsy with the net. Then this makes for an awkward and silent drive home.

All this begs the question, is it just better if you do not hook and lose a big fish at all? Well, no. All fishing is centred around the anticipation of catching a truly big fish. Catching a big fish and telling the tale of it is what we all dream of and why humans evolved arms that can outstretch well beyond the length of the fish we normally catch.

That’s why I would say it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

Of course, the only exception to this rule is if you are the fishing buddy who was clumsy with the net.

A little more local for your inbox.

Seven days. One newsletter. Local reporting about people and places you
won't find anywhere else. Stay caught up with The Observer This Week.

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