The Perfect Storm
January 20, 2017
It has been suggested that your Stream Keeper maintain his blog over the winter months. My initial reaction was to deny any ability to write about fly fishing when I don’t wet a line all winter and since I have spun all my accumulated yarns in last season’s blog entries. I haven’t fished during the trout off season since I fly fished for Redfish in Pensacola before I lost my leg below the knee back in 2010. But, I suspect that there are so many aspects of the fly fishing world to write about besides the actual day-to-day conduct of the fishing itself. So, I will give it a try, hopefully 2 or 3 days a week.
Right now I am hunkered down in Las Vegas, playing (relatively) high stakes Texas No Limit Hold’em poker 3 days a week, and tying flies, reading and writing the remainder of the time. More fundamentally, I am working on my fly fishing game. How so?
Patience, my friend. How many times last season did I rush my cast, failing to wait for the right time to present the fly to a nice working fish, or not thinking through the selection of the fly? As I look back I realize that I just could not wait. I couldn’t slow down. I was in a rush, which often cost me the fish. Some days it didn’t matter much because the fish were rising feverishly and another noteworthy trout would present itself in a rise a minute later. So, it was not difficult to forget your indiscretion. But, then there were those sessions where the opportunities to hook a trout, big or small, were preciously few, and I would come away from the creek frustrated with my costly impatience. I came to realize that I was lacking in discipline, the discipline of patience.
Over the years I have begun to believe that the quality of having patience, or discipline, is common to both fly fishing and poker, at least in terms of my mental makeup and also my ultimate success at both past times, . . . if satisfaction is measured in large part by objective success, i.e. the number and quality of fish hooked and the amount of money cashed in at the end of the poker session. When I don’t display the requisite patience, the results are subpar in both endeavors.
In Texas No Limit poker you are initially dealt two “hole” cards. Afterwards, 5 “community” cards are dealt face up: first three cards known as “the flop,” then a single card called the “Turn,” then the final community card called “The River.” After being dealt the hole cards, one has an opportunity to “call” the mandatory ante (known as “the big blind”), raise or fold. One is allowed to check, bet or raise after the Flop, which can be made in any amount, limited only by the chips you have at the time. When you bet all of your chips, it is said that you are “All In.” The strategy comes down to when to bet, how much to bet, or whether to bet at all. The latter sounds simple, but it is not. Very little “luck” is really involved as the game is really a matter of knowing the percentage chance that your initially good hand will hold up against the improvement in your opponents’ hands as more community cards are dealt successively. Success rises and falls on the timing and amount of one’s bets, raises, checks or folds. There are many dilemmas and decisions to be made.
For example, if you make too large an initial bet with your strong hole cards (e.g. pair of Aces or Kings) you can scare everyone out of the hand, getting little for a precious big hand that one gets dealt 1 out of 222 times. Yet, if you make a relatively small bet, many players will “call” and join in the hand, and someone may well benefit enough from the three card flop such that your Pocket Aces are now beaten, and you might not learn that until you have thrown bad chips after good chips. You might lose your entire chip stack.
You have to wait for the optimal and strategic time to go “All In” or commit a substantial amount of chips. You need to make sure that you have the best hand (“The Nuts”), or at least that there is a very high percentage chance that you have the winner, before you make a move. There are many situations during a poker session where it is merely probable that you have the winner or at least are ahead of the pack. You could immediately make a big bet, designed to force others to fold so that you can take the pot, but someone with a similarly strong or promising hand might well call and develop a stronger hand with the fall of the next community card. Had you better display patience and just check, or make a smaller bet to build the potential pot until you are sure that you have the winning hand?
You can get impatient and frustrated waiting for the Perfect Storm at the poker table. I would estimate that in 1 out of 150 hands one runs into the situation where one has a “monster” hand and an opponent has a slightly inferior hand but must be committed to it. This situation is where one makes his money. You can sit there all day waiting for this Perfect Storm, and it may not happen even once in a session. When I say that poker is boring and frustrating, I am really saying that some days the cards require more patience than I seem to be able to muster.
So, too, with fly fishing on Silver Creek, at least in my experience. If I can fish in a patient manner, I make the most of the occasional opportunity to hook a large or fussy trout. To me, the Perfect Storm of trout fishing occurs when you encounter a rising trophy trout and have the patience to assess what the trout is feeding on, to select an appropriate fly, and to make a presentation which dupes your quarry. The reward and satisfaction can be overwhelming when patience is displayed. In contrast, when I cast feverishly and impatiently there is often a sense of disappointment in myself, even if I have landed a bunch of fish, for I mourn the mistakes I have made in my haste and the lost opportunity.
Doug Andres, Stream Keeper, Double R Ranch