“Lucky hat.” Now there’s a term we’re all familiar with. Many of us have a hat we consider lucky, due to one fortunate thing or another that came our way while wearing that particular hat. Some folks have a particular hat they wear on game day to ensure their team wins. I met a guy who had a crusty black Stetson he wore whenever he played poker (my bet is that he was a lousy card player and couldn’t afford a new hat). When it comes to lucky fishing hats, obviously it means a particular hat has brought us prosperity in our pursuit of fish. I used to think it was a load of bunk and would grab whatever baseball style cap was my current favorite. There was no sentimental attachment as I jumped from one hat to the next without loyalty–whatever hat I wore on the water on a particular day seemed equally capable of insuring that I wouldn’t catch fish. Since those days I have changed my tune, and now whistle Stevie Ray Vaughan’s version of “Superstition” when it comes time to choose my hat (Stevie Wonder’s original version just doesn’t cut it for me).
My hat of choice is a semi wide-brimmed model described in marketing literature as the style worn by “River Guides”, although I have never seen any guide on any river wearing a hat exactly like mine, which leads me to be suspicious of the claim. While I fully acknowledge that beauty is a subjective term, in the eye of this beholder my hat is both a thing of beauty and supreme functionality. I looks like it’s been run over by a truck, rolled in the mud, used for filtering coffee, soaked in the river, rode hard and put up wet (and it just gets better with age).
Obvious aesthetics aside, it also keeps the sun and rain off my face and protects my ears from being flossed–a term coined by an angler who was obviously a dentist (it seems a likely origin since I’m sure many dentists are fly fishermen, just like most attorneys are also fly fishermen). I assert that dentists must have been the first fly anglers, because an attorney would have likely coined the term, “cross-examined by a hostile hook”. At any rate, flossing is a kinder, gentler term to describe an otherwise horrific occurrence that happens when the wind destroys an otherwise perfect forward cast, sending the fly (with it’s sharp hook) on a collision course with one’s ear. This can be either self-inflicted or caused by a dentist fishing upwind. In the event of doing this to oneself, there’s not much recourse other than feel a certain degree of humility. In the case of the latter I recommend calling an attorney and pressing charges of negligent bodily injury. Flossing can also happen when engaged in the act of Spey casting. If you have an incorrectly placed anchor, abandon the cast immediately. If you don’t, you had better hope to be wearing a full coverage lucky fishing helmet.
While I’ve never had either of my ears flossed, I have heard of it happening to others, and I’ve seen the evidence. I was, in fact, fortunate enough to have some folks allow me the use their photos (thanks to Jarrod, Josh, Matt, and Moldy Chum), which I offer here into evidence as Exhibits A , B, C and D.
(Legal disclaimer: The images you are about to see would make Van Gogh cringe– consider yourself fairly warned)
It certainly looks painful, but I’m guessing it mainly hurts when one tries to remove the hook, especially when/if they realize they forgot to pinch the barb. Fishing with a barbless hook is required on many waters, though it is a common misconception that barbless hooks are intended to protect the fish. The reality is that these regulations are in place to protect the angler, however I’m sure the fish benefit to some degree as well. At any rate, I always pinch my barbs because if there’s one thing that scares me more than a visit to the dental chair for a root canal, it’s a visit to one of those places that administer body piercings.
Aside from keeping my ears safe from negligent anglers (dentists and attorneys alike) and wayward Spey casts (in my experience those are the only kind), the hat is also lucky in the sense that I’ve almost never had a skunking while wearing it (steelheading, doesn’t count). I’ve been skunked on the Yakima River a couple times, but that’s not the fault of the hat–I blame the lack of fish. I shudder to imagine how badly my catch record might smell if not for my lucky hat, so I am content to not mess with the status quo. As Stevie Ray sang, “Very superstitious, nothin more to say…”
Except that my lucky fishing hat also makes me look taller.
I rest my case.