Skunked is an awesome word. It is one of the premier words in the fishing lexicon. It is a word that has it all, it conjures up the sensation of the loneliness that immediately follows having been sprayed by the striped beast. It causes thoughts, no actual images, of being shunned, and not particularly enjoying the experience but not being able to do much about it. It is ubiquitous, every fisherman has experienced it and knows exactly thereby what the word means. It rolls off the tongue with an unusual ease that belies its power, its cold and utter darkness. It does not need a definition except to those who have been living in lead mines all their lives. It's origin is obvious and touches on an experience many of us outdooraphiles have experienced.
It's a plague that comes and goes in patterns impossible to decipher. It can be just a one day thing in the midst of otherwise plenty, or it can be a continual run that seems like eons before it leaves. And it's always waiting out there, and we know it. We see it hovering like the grim reaper over the water, fading away only after the first catch that ends the streak. But the spectre doesn't disappear entirely, it just retreats until the next fishing trip, and there it is again.
And yet we know that being in a state of skunked has powerful magic that comes with it. At the end of a skunked fishing trip we get to ask ourselves some very philosophical questions, serious questions about our deepest beliefs. And because we are in the state of skunk, these are not hypothetical questions as so many philosophical questions are, no these are real life right now in your face questions. And you have to think about them seriously, and answer them. No dodging is going to work.
One of those questions is "Why do we fish?" And the answer comes back that it is only partially about catching fish. And the echo to that answer comes back "Yeah, but it sure is a lot more fun to catch fish than not to." And a debate is started in the fisherman's mind that he knows isn't really about fishing, it's closer to questions about the meaning of life, why am I here, those are the real questions. That's the real debate.
Those answers are different for each of us, yet remarkably similar. And we all answer those questions pretty much the same way. We go fishing again, first chance we get in fact. We reaffirm the value of fishing, and we find that fishing steadies us, helps us to handle the rest of our world better. We get all of that from being skunked. Two questions that also get their fair share of air time are: "Would I keep fishing if I knew I wouldn't catch another fish?" And "Would I keep fishing if I knew I was going to catch a ton of fish every single time?" The answer to both of those questions is no.
And here's the wonderful thing about fishing, the reality is right square between those two extremes, and because we don't know if we will catch fish or not, we keep fishing. Because we don't know when it will happen, or how big the fish might be, we keep fishing. Without being skunked we wouldn't have the urge to keep going.
Being skunked is one of the best of all possible outcomes. I just wish it would be over with soon.