It’s Not Luck

by | Sep 26, 2023 | 7 comments

From the beginning, luck and fishing were intertwined. It became part of our anglers’ lore. And while good luck has surely saved countless fishing trips, bad luck continues to doom the best laid plans of a fisherman.

Some say you make your own luck, but that’s not true. Pure fortune lies outside of our influence. However, it’s also inseparable from results, and there is some measure of luck involved anytime a fish flexes a fishing rod.

Regardless, luck is beyond our control. Instead, we manufacture our circumstances around it. With preparation and forethought, with curiosity and grit, we get the most of a good bite, turning opportunity into memories by capitalizing on the willingness of a fish. And when luck runs sour, we find a path through the difficulty and see it through, gaining the simple satisfaction of effort against the odds, growing stronger as an angler, every time we press through the adversity of bad luck.

Great trout fishing is rarely the result of good luck. And if the experience was up to the fish and to fate, I’d hardly pick up a fishing rod. Success on the water is not a slot machine. It’s more like a game of poker, where you play the hand you’re given and try to fool your adversary. Sometimes the cards you’re holding guarantee success. But the next day Mother Nature deals you a situation where pulling a couple fish is a grand achievement.

READ: Troutbitten | Fish It Anyway
READ: Troutbitten | Waiting on Luck

Skeptics sometimes question the strategies of dedicated anglers. They accuse us of complicating the game, of making a simple pastime unnecessarily complex.

“It’s just fishing,” they say. “Put your bait in the water and see if the fish eats it.”

But that’s waiting on luck. It’s hoping to get lucky. And when it doesn’t happen, all you’re left with are wants and wishes that your luck will turn around.

Our rapture with fishing stems from doing, not from waiting. We fool the next trout because we adjust, because we fail and then follow up with modifications, casting at new angles with an emerging dry fly or forcing a nymph deeper into the water column.

The willingness to meet luck wherever it stands, to accept what comes and fish regardless, is the fundamental attribute of die hard anglers, regardless of their region or the species they chase. We fish because we can, because we’re alive, willing and able, and because we mean to beat bad luck just as we did the last time it showed up. Our greatest fishing memories are a mix of conditions and circumstances. We remember not just the sunny skies, trophy fish and screaming drags. It’s the flat tires, wet clothes, shaking hands, sprained limbs and broken rods too.

Our failures might easily be excused for bad luck. The fish wouldn’t eat. The water was cold. The skies were too bright. But these thoughts weaken our will to solve the intangible mystery. And for as long as I’ve cast a line into a river, it’s that mystery which calls me back.

I have no doubt it always will. Because long ago I realized one truth in trout fishing. It’s not luck.

Fish hard, friends.


** Donate ** If you enjoy this article, please consider a donation. Your support is what keeps this Troutbitten project funded. Scroll below to find the Donate Button. And thank you.


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 1000+ articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers.
Your support is greatly appreciated.

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

More from this Category

The Impossible Shot

The Impossible Shot

I must have been in my late teens, because I was wearing hip boots and casting a fly rod. It was a short transitional time when I fished small streams on the fly and still thought I had no need for chest waders.

It’s remarkable how the details of a fishing trip stick in the angler’s brain. We recall the slightest details about flies, locations and tippet size. We know that our big brown trout was really sixteen inches but we rounded it up to eighteen. The sun angles, the wind, the hatching bugs and the friends who share the water — all of it soaks into our storage and stays there for a lifetime. Fishing memories are sticky. And for this one, I certainly remember the fly . . .

What Fishing Does to Your Brain

What Fishing Does to Your Brain

Fishing captivates us because it provides two of the three things we need to be happy — something to work on and something to look forward to. What’s the third key to happiness? Someone to love. And for the angler, we’d be wise to choose someone who loves us back, enough to care about and listen to our fishing stories.

I’m thankful for all of this . . .

Perspective, From the Salt to the Limestone

Perspective, From the Salt to the Limestone

Nothing opens the aperture of life better than time away from your daily routine. Vacations are an intermission between acts, providing time to stretch your legs, consider what you’ve seen and prepare for what’s to come.

. . . This past week in saltwater provided that intermission and granted me perspective at just the right time.

Three Inches Makes the Difference

Three Inches Makes the Difference

How many times have I assumed that no trout would eat, when all I needed was a different target? How many trout did I pass earlier this morning because I was complacent about my drifts? “Good enough” was my mindset. “Close enough” were my terms, but the trout were on a different page . . .

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.


  1. Luck;
    When preparation and opportunity collide.

    • I fully agree with the author of the article” Its not Luck”. I have been an avid fisherman and fly fisherman for over 60 years. It IS the process of the old adage ” luck happens when preparation meets opportunity”. It also means the fisherman has got to go fishing (not just talk a good game) often to places on the water that he has learned always hold fish – as opposed to places that don’t…. and be willing to take the risks involved while fishing. I recently , at my age , hooked, fought and brought to the boat an 85 pound tarpon. Before that fight was over I had my left knee cap moved to the right 1/4 inch out of position, my left thumb dislocated requiring surgery later and my left shoulder wrenched and distended. This was “bad luck”certainly but now I know the risks involved in going after fish that big and powerful. Good article…and every “would be” fisherman should take it to heart.

  2. Well said and how I like to fish❤️

  3. Great piece! The main reason I love tightline nymphing so much is that I felt like, for the first time, I was in the drivers seat with fly fishing. No more keeping my fingers crossed that fish would come up for a dry; no more wishing the currents weren’t too complicated for my dragging Indy rig. Tight lining by no means guarantees success on any given day, but it gives me so many options that I always feel like I’m fishing rather than hoping.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

Pin It on Pinterest