Voices from the River: Mojo

The author, when he had mojo.


By Sam Davidson

Mojo is a term of American origin that refers to a magic charm or spell. It also has come to mean, more broadly, a quality or ability that brings good fortune or helps one be good at something.

It’s not uncommon that I hear anglers speaking of their fishing success—or lack of it—in terms of mojo.

No doubt skill and experience are the two most influential factors in the rate of fish brought to hand. But mojo surely plays a part.

How else to explain my recent dismal performance with a rod and reel?

I’ve been fishing in saltwater, on the beach, since pretty much the turn of the year. This winter has delivered plenty of rain to California, and while that’s most welcome for water supply and dry season habitat conditions, it’s pretty much blown out all the steelhead streams in my vicinity.

Fortunately, it’s high season for barred surf perch, and a few striped bass are to be had at this time of year too. I know this because virtually all of the other folks around here who perversely love this activity—often an exercise in wind, finger-numbing salt spray, and surging set waves that can topple even the most tree trunk-legged among us—have all been getting bit and landing slabs.

(L) Ken Oda, resident surf perch scientist and angler extraordinaire, searching for that pot of gold on a central California beach. Shortly after the mojo-less author left the beach, Ken landed a nice striper.

I should add that in previous years I have actually gotten grabs from both species, on the same beaches, heck, in more or less the same troughs, where I have been getting blanked lately.

My record of futility is the more pathetic because even a complete rookie can expect, on occasion anyway, to get a grab from a surf perch from six feet away provided their line and a suitable fly are swirling around in the water.

So I attribute my difficulties to a problem with my mojo. But why did I lose it, where did it go, and how can I get it back?

A quick Google search reveals nothing about the cause of lost fishing mojo, but does offer a number of suggestions for how to get your mojo back. Some of these are contradictory. “Don’t go away from proven patterns.” “Try every fly in your box.” “Vary your retrieve.” “Don’t mess up your presentation by thinking you should change your retrieve or other tactics.”

In the end, though, it seems every angler whose mojo was hijacked, then recovered, then wrote about it in a blog, ultimately recommends simply to keep on fishing. That’s how hitters break out of a batting slump, right?

I have just enough (some would say more than enough) stubborn doggedness in me to be willing to keep on fishing. And I am not above poaching strategy and tactics from fellow anglers who are fish magnets either. In fact, while on the beach recently, stripping basket full of line and some good structure just off the water line in front of me, I have spent as much time watching other anglers as throwing casts.

(R) Proof that the author once had mojo on the beach.

You can only fire decent casts into productive-looking water with nary a nibble for so long without thinking that the fish just aren’t there. In my case, however, I knew the fish were there, because my fellow beach-slingers were getting hookups, with pretty much the same set-up as I was using.

To make the ignominy more severe, many of their fish were hefty, platter-sized perch running 2-3 pounds and thick-shouldered 3-5 pound stripers.

So I am left with the inescapable conclusion that the perch and stripers cruising our local beaches like gangsters, slamming everything that looks even remotely like a baitfish or sand crab, continue to reject my offerings because I am currently bereft of that je ne sais quoi often called mojo.

I resolved to make a sacrifice to the fishing gods. Well, maybe “resolved” isn’t the operative term here. But sacrifice I did—by jamming my rod against a seat back as I tried to thread it into the car and snapping off the tip section.

The fishing gods are notoriously merciless. But I figure that a sacrifice of this magnitude has to count for something in their eyes. So I fully expect to have my mojo back in tow when I next hit the beach for a shot of redemption.

Which will be weeks from now, when my new tip section arrives.

Sam Davidson is TU’s communications director for California and Oregon. He has photos to prove that he once had beach fishing mojo.




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