Choose Your Bait Carefully

This is a business related post, but first a story.

The Story

Saturday afternoon, I had a chance to go fly fishing. Now don’t get the wrong impression. Where I live, there are no pristine rivers where one can wade under a canopy of weeping trees. There are no riffles or dark pools of water holding gorgeous colored brown trout.

Instead, I undertake what’s been called brownlining. Essentially, it’s fishing in suburban areas where the types of places I mentioned above don’t exist. Brownlining happens in ditches, golf course ponds and creeks where the water resembles thick murky chocolate milk. More or less, it’s anywhere you can find some water where fish could live.

One secret location where I fish, I’ve aptly named Carp City. It  is an amazing spot. I can go to this location and hook into some monster 10,20,30lb+ carp.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Carp are gross. Am I right?

Actually, carp don’t get the type of respect they deserve. Many people assume carp are a bottom feeding garbage fish. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Carp are actually one of the toughest and most sought after fish to be caught on the fly. They are also 50 Times harder to catch than other freshwater fish, such as trout.

For a great primer on the history and beauty of the carp I refer you to my good friend, Ian James, also known as the “carpfather.” Ian is known as the carpfather because of his passion and respect for carp. Ian is largely responsibly for the reason fly fishing for carp has become popular over the past few years.

Catching a carp on a fly rod is hard to explain. The best way I can think to explain it is, it’s a lot like taking one end of your fishing line and tying it to a train leaving the station.

On Saturday, when I reached Carp City, I noticed another man fishing the area. He wasn’t a fly fisherman. Instead, he was tossing large 3-prong treble hooks into the water and proceeding to literally snag fish and bring them to shore.

treblehook.jpg

The man looked at me with a confused stare as I started casting a fly line with a size 8 wooly bugger. The size 8 wooly bugger is a small fly about an inch long in length.

I think he thought I was totally nuts.

Here he was, using the biggest collection of hooks he could find and dragging them along the bottom to snag the unsuspecting fish. Here I am, patiently twitching a tiny little fly through the chocolate milk.

Within a few minutes, I had hooked my first fish. The man yelled over “Ya got one? Ya probably snagged her!”

I knew right away the fish wasn’t snagged. The massive carp had devoured my tiny little fly, and I proceeded to fight the massive fish for the next 40 minutes. He made a few runs for Ohio, and, on a few occasions, I thought he might make it.

The man was further shocked when he realized the fly was in fish’s mouth and not snagged on its tail.

He thought I got lucky, and he proceeded to snag more fish as I proceeded to carefully catch more. For every 10 he snagged, I caught one.

The Lesson

Business is a lot like my fishing experience.

Many businesses toss out the giant 3-prong massive hook hoping to snag whoever and whatever they can. It doesn’t matter if they snag you and bring you in, they believe they’ve won.

They caught a few fish and made a little money, but it’s not sustainable. Nobody wins. Both the fish and the fisherman lose.

Then there are the businesses that toss the tiny wooly bugger. They work to earn their catch. They take time and patience to seek out the best customers they can find. They know the reward outweighs the risk of trying to take shortcuts.

They understand that fish are smart and require respect. They understand that the fish are easily spooked and will leave if something isn’t right.

In this case, both are rewarded.

The fisherman ends up with a better, stronger customer and feels that he’s earned his catch. It’s a much more enjoyable experience.

The fish is happier because she hasn’t had half her tail ripped off by the giant 3-pronged hook. She hasn’t been duped. She’s been released unharmed. And because of this, the fish will come back again and again. It’s not always about fooling the fish. The best fisherman know and understand it’s a game of respect between the fish and fisherman.

If you snag enough fish in the same area, they’ll eventually catch on, pack up their bags, and leave for good. Treat them with respect, and you can enjoy their business for years to come.