Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pyrrhic Victory

A little history lesson courtesy of my student loan company, the G.I. Bill, and the first five or six entries to come up on a Google search (good thing I spent all that money) ...

In 280 B.C. and again in 279 (I refuse to use the politically correct "B.C.E.") King Pyrrhus of Epirus devastated his Roman opponents on the fields of Heraclea and Asculum respectively. Following the battle at Asculum the Greek historian Plutarch recorded Pyrhuss' reaction. The translation reads something like this, "One more such victory and I am lost."

Pyrhuss, it seems, sacrificed too many men to achieve a favorable end to the war. Although they were clearly defeated and suffered terrible losses, the Romans were better able to gather new recruits and resume the fight. Pyrrhus' own army was decimated, and he did not have the resources of his Roman counterparts. By winning the battles Pyrhuss lost the war. From this page of history we draw the term "Pyrrhic victory," which has come to suggest a victory that has been won at too dear a price.

The spring of this year witnessed the kind of fishing about which most of us dream. The hendricksons came in tremendous numbers, and it seemed as if every big fish in the river was regularly on the feed. Ben, Adam and I had more than just a few days when several twenty inch browns came to net. On one such day, Adam (the lucky SOB) took a twenty-four inch hen, and just a few moments later followed it up with a twenty-three inch kype-jawed male. Days like that are almost unheard of in this neck of the woods. Yes, the spring of 2009 was glorious.

Summer, by way of contrast, has been abysmal. Without consulting a local meteorologist, I would guess that since the end of June we've averaged two or three days of rain per week. The near continuous rainfall has had the effect of raising water levels in all the local ditches, and maintaining flows that just aren't conducive to fishing. Last year at this time I was averaging three or four days on the water per week (despite the triplets having just learned to walk). What am I averaging this year? Let's just say that I was never any good at fractions. It seems I spent all my mojo during the spring, and that I've nothing left with which to finish the season.

What then should a fisherman do who appears to have angered both the river and weather gods, and has virtually no hope of catching a fish? If you're reading this then you likely know the answer. When one is tormented by high water, horrible weather, and a gnawing desire to wet a line then one follows Pyrrhus' example and fishes regardless of normal considerations. That's what we did yesterday at any rate, and that's what we'll do tomorrow. Yesterday, we caught fish; a surprising number of fish. Tomorrow, who knows? Maybe we'll find just a drop or two more ju-ju, and continue to fight the good fight.

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