Anything Goes with Jack, July 1999

By Jack Denny

I have an old faded pink hat that is very lucky. Yes, I’m superstitious about fishing but just about fishing. I’ve broken mirrors and walked under many a ladder. My neighbor had a black cat that crossed my path countless times over the years and nothing ever came of it. But not wearing a specific hat or shirt or item can spell disaster even before the fishing begins. The pink hat has been around along time and is a very serious fishing tool. It doesn’t have a long brim like the swordfish hat worn by Cape Codders. It doesn’t have the Lefty up and down look. It is a baseball style hat that was part of package for joining the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. I was able to choose the color, at the time a bright fluorescent pink, from a large selection. That year I lead the false albacore shore fly rod division for a couple weeks before being blown off The Board (a chalkboard with the winners located at Derby Headquarters) in the last week but I could care less at that point. I had found my lucky hat. The fishing that year had been just great and I associate it with this hat.

Other items of clothing have made their way into my ritual of getting ready to go fishing. A shirt my daughter gave me some how has been on my back during some great moments in fly fishing. I’m sure most Saltys have a favorite shirt or hat or jacket that they feel comfortable in and wear it with confidence. Well I’ve taken things a little further than just feeling confident, these things are a must for success. It was the last week in October, my two friends and I had been really into the bass (this is when I was still using other methods of fishing along with the fly rod). We had concluded after the first night that the clothes were part of the magic, so nothing changed for the next four days (now underwear is never lucky, it just has to be clean and changed often, socks are another story).

Flies are tied with thoughts of only catching fish, if a fly does not catch a fish after three attempts I consider it a jinx and the hook is recycled. I test all my flies in the water before casting them to see if they swim correctly, have good action and if I like them. Some flies never see a cast, just the bottom of my pocket and trip to the operating table for material removal. There is some strange “mojo” going on at the vise, I feel more confident using my flies than any store bought fly. I have fished flies by certain people if the are given to me. Perry Lisser’s “Mr. Bighead”, a Glen Mikkelson fly or one of Bob Woolley’s tube flies have brought me luck. Some flies that are given to me make it to the fly tying table only to be displayed and then copied.

Rods are lucky only after they have had the luck built into them, let me explain. First of all I choose a rod by the type of fishing I plan to do. You know, an eight weight rod for school bass and blues, small tunas, casting small flies, etc. you get the picture. Then I cast a selection of rods at shows or at the local tackle shop and then make my decision. No luck here, common sense and feel are what counts. Price is a consideration but hey, you only live once so what the heck. Then using the rod enough to catch fish builds the luck into it. Does this make sense? It may seem a little strange but that’s just the way things go.

I use to own a boat but there was never any superstitions that were associated with being on the boat. Some captains have some strange rituals and rules about being on a boat like not Pepsi only Coke. Not wearing my $24 Timex watch could spell disaster though. A couple weeks ago I decided to head down to the Jersey shore where the bluefish should have been in the back bay pounding the bunker. It’s been that way for years. As I approached the last toll booth on the Garden State Parkway I noticed something, no wedding ring and no watch. My heart sunk, my trip was doomed. But since I was almost there and I had the pink hat it just didn’t matter. As I parked my truck a local guy I have known for years came out of his house and greeted me with a big smile. We talked about the family, his garden, a mutual friend and then the fishing. Things were slow according to him but there were fish around. Good news at last. As I walked out on to the beach I spotted a big bluefish laying on the shore drying in the sun with its sides filleted. Another good sign. Three hours later I was walking off the beach with some great casting experience. Even the pink hat couldn’t save the day, too many other things were out of alignment.

The pink hat is faded though some bright spots can be seen under the brim. I have other hats that have become part of the dress code. They were broken in slowly and during days when I knew there were fish around so it (the hat) could get use to what I expect it to do while on my head. I know I am not alone with these strange ideas, there are others out there with some ideas of your own on what is lucky. Just keep things quiet, you don’t want others knowing the secrets to your success.