The One That Got Away

By: Jason Metz’s

“The one that got away.” No doubt a term we are all too familiar with. 

“Well, I didn’t actually get any into the net, but you should have seen the one that got away…”

“Yea, that’s fine if you are targeting that size, but the one that got away, he must have been at least 28 inches.” 

“It was a good day, but it’s the one that got away that will continue to haunt me in my dreams.” 

Yes, it’s true that “the one that got away” induces the cold hard reality of what could have been, yet never was. For the fly angler, this experience is especially traumatic. After all, what else in life provides us with such tragic memories than “the one that got away?” PTTD (post-traumatic trout disorder) threatens to rear its ugly head at every cast. Invoking a fragile balance between our perceived ability as a master fly angler and the absolute reality of our application. Verbalizing our compromised emotional state by recounting our experience about “the one that got away” not only helps heal the pain of what could have been but also allows us to save the dignity we hold so dear. 

The consolation here comes in knowing that we were skilled enough to place that fly we spent 48 minutes tying the night before just perfectly where it needed to be in order to deceive what many anglers would agree is the most intelligent non-human creature to ever grace this earth. So what if you didn’t actually “catch” this fish. Should that really diminish the excellent technique demonstrated and be a black mark on our otherwise outstanding ability as a fly angler? 

This expression is actually so effective we have seen it used in other areas in life, such as when a relationship goes sour. “I will always remember her as the one that got away.” What is the chosen and compassionate response in such times of heartbreak? “I know it’s hard right now, but remember, there is a lot of other fish in the sea.” You see, even in our times of relational letdown, we can take heart in knowing there are in fact other fish in the sea, as well as the lakes and most importantly in the streams. I’m still not sure who the genius was who first pointed a broken-hearted lug back to fishing, but we as men are ever indebted to their wisdom. 

What many don’t know is that the origins of, “You should have seen the one that got away” was actually coined by none other than the inventor and pioneer of the beloved sport we call fly fishing. If memory serves, his name was Orvis Simms. Upon attaching some English partridge feathers, no doubtably roadkill, to a hook in a rudimentary manner and juicing it up with some Gink, he made the first fly cast. And it promptly got stuck in the one tree that was behind him. But the second cast was historic. To his surprise, the edge of the riffle held an astonishing trout. The eat was perfect and the fight was on. Twenty-six seconds into the epic battle, a fatefully tragic headshake threw the hook. 

Later, as he began to tell all the other anglers at the local pub the heroic story of “the one that got away” Orvis Simms cemented himself as a fly fishing legend. Never must we as those who continue to carry on the mantle of this monumental step of fly fishing evolution forget the importance of “the one that got away.” Personally, this very principle has allowed me to claim victory where others hang their head in defeat. After a long day spent trudging the home waters of my favorite Montana streams, my wife or kids or coworkers will casually ask with an eye roll, “So, how was fishing today?” With my head raised high and a noble tone honoring all those who have gone before me, I launch into an overly detailed account of the day’s adventures with those glorious words, “You should have seen the one that got away…”

Jason Metz: I’m just a simple man trying to fish as much as possible. Living in Montana not only opens up many opportunities to fish, it also helps me gain a better understanding of our wonderful sport we call fly fishing. Tying flies and the ongoing adventure that this form of art provides is also a hobby I am fully invested in. Literally, the investment has been huge, but as far as my wife knows, tying my own flies is saving me so much money. Find me on Facebook.

One thought on “The One That Got Away

  1. Nice article, gave me a chuckle as I opened my email and read this. Cuz just this very weekend I came off the river reminiscing bout the very one that got away, had to have been in the mid to high 20’s, the vicious strike, the reel screaming, the fight, the head shaking, the jumping out of the water and then he was gone! Wondering what happened, only to check my fly and this gorgeous brown literally bent my size 12 barbless hook out to freedom! Pow. Oh what a feeling!

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