Friday, November 4, 2011

The Importance of Bovine Mysticism for the Modern Angler

Think it's a good day to go fishing? These psychic cows say otherwise.
Driving home this morning I was reminded of one of my all time favorite fishing superstitions. Or old wives' tales. Or fishing voodoo, Whatever you call it. My particular favorite goes something like this : " If the cows are laying down , it's not a good day to fish." and the reverse " If the cows are standing up eating , the fish will be biting."

I can't fathom how this one got started. I imagine an ancient fisherman having a horrible day on the water while a nearby herd of reclining cattle stare him down with the universal " I told you so " smirk gracing their beefy faces. I'm sure there were times when this superstition proved true , just as there are times that it is obviously false. The part that fascinates me is the oral tradition. Little bits of perceived wisdom , passed down by word of mouth.

Most fishermen and women will take any help they can get , even reverting to odd traditions and the occasional bit of folk lore to further the cause. Bananas on a boat? Not on my watch. Eat the heart of a tuna? You betcha. Bite the head off of a mackerel? Sure , why not?

While some are strange , there are many more that have an obvious factual origin. One that I recently heard from a friend (who heard it from an elderly fisherman) , is that " The big catfish on the New River will be biting when the apple trees start to bud. " There is a wealth of information in that simple  statement. The apple trees , like the fish , don't conform to any set date on the calendar , but they do respond to the warmth that comes with the onset of Spring.

I enjoy being a curator of tidbits of fishing wisdom , true , false or just plain silly. I think it enriches the sport and reinforces the bond I have with the centuries of fishermen who came before me. Sharing these anecdotal fishing mantras adds a mythical element to fishing , something those who only use a modern scientific approach are missing. Therein lies the importance of Bovine Mysticism. Keeping oral traditions alive adds to the experience and I am always delighted when one of them proves true , if only for a day.

If things go wrong , you can always blame the cows.

Have a great weekend! Share your own fishing or hunting superstitions in the comments below.


  1. I have noticed that many of the elder anglers on the piers of myrtle beach do indeed like to eat bananas while fishing. As for the apple trees blooming, that is something of a legend here on the New River. Every hardcore catfisherman will swear by it. Personally I can't stand bananas but if it would put another fish in the boat-MAKE IT A DOUBLE.

  2. Every time I do a post and make the comment about a cup of coffee at Cook's Station means a limit of trout is as superstitious as you can get, but hey, it works. Now, I have to be aware of whether the cows are up or down. More things to worry about. Just kidding.


  3. Jigmax1 , Thanks for stopping by! I've heard stories of OBX captains dumping people's lunches out at the docks because of bananas. Apparently they are considered bad luck in the offshore fleet? I'll have to try some next time I'm on the pier :)

  4. Mark , Thanks for reading! Maybe you could stack the odds in your favor by cow tipping the night before and stopping for coffee first thing in the morning?

  5. That's funny. I'm actually in the process of writing up something on superstitions.

    We make it a rule not to -ever- comment on good weather because saying anything out loud would curse us.

    Oh, and bananas are bad luck on a boat. True story.

  6. Alex , Great minds think alike :) Can't wait to read it.

    It is my personal conviction that being cold , wet and miserable = good fishing!

    I've heard a lot about the bananas :) Reminds me of Mario Kart.

  7. I've personally proved so many of those things wrong, I've given up. Now if I feel like going fishing, I go fishing.

    One I do adhere to...if a bull is staring you down from across the creek your fishing, it's time to leave.

  8. I agree with you Ken. I go whenever I have the chance , but the old wives' tales and superstitions have always fascinated me - even when they are proved wrong.

    I think they are an interesting piece of fishing history/culture that is worth preserving , especially when you consider that most of them originated before fishing became the "science" it is today. Fishermen have always been looking for the next big secret or surefire ways to guarantee a good day on the water.

    I'd love to hear some of your Midwestern fishing lore :)

  9. Never heard that one. The only thing I've heard about the cows is....if they are all laying down, then its gonna rain.

  10. I'm casting my vote with the rain idea. I think the cows are picking up on the pressure change and are laying down due to sore bones. I've heard a lot of advice on fishing and pressure changes (don't remember any of that mumbo jumbo but) it might apply here.

    You'll never catch fish if you don't fish. Fish always, bring bananas, women, beer, whatever you want. Hell biting the head off a mackerel is cool too.

  11. I'm with Funcfish. I've heard the cow thing & the wife & I argue that our grandparents told us same story but opposite outcomes whether stand is good/bad. I think the barometric pressure has a lot to do with lazy cows & fish.
    I've heard don't bring bananas as the flies & skeeters like them..


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