Muldoon’s Luck

by Jim Keech

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I'm not sure that we believe in luck anymore. In our scientific, pragmatic world, the blessings of fortune and trials of fate are explained away as "realized managerial opportunities," "disadvantaged childhoods," "determining genetic end environmental factors," or some such nonsense. Star-crossed lovers, winning the sweepstakes, and legacies from rich uncles have become the stuff fairy tales and TV programs are made of.

Even among fishermen, where "any luck?" has always been the common greeting on the stream for generations, a movement is afoot to persuade us that now skill is everything, that ten percent of the fishermen catch ninety percent of the fish because of superior knowledge and experience. And so Uncle Joe's catch of five lunker rainbows when we are skunked becomes the result of studious application of the lessons of Schwiebert combined with the benefits of balanced tackle and polished pin-point casting. But I say it's all rot. I believe in luck. I have to. You see, I fish with Muldoon.

I even believe in degrees of luck, for how else to explain Muldoon? Luck, I'm convinced, extends from those black battalions of troubles that characterize horrible bad luck through common bad luck, no luck, middling good luck, to the Elysian blessings of the gods upon those whose luck is eternally good. And then there's Muldoon's luck: a kind of fourth dimension of luck; a divine grace which touches the ultimate limits of fortune; good luck raised to some incomprehensible tenth power of compounded providence. It sits upon Muldoon like a golden halo of sainted success.

I can't really explain it. Muldoon's luck defies analysis in a finite world. It is simply one of those unfathomable mysteries of life that one merely watches with an incomprehensible wonder at the unequal dispensation of cosmic justice. But I've seen it enough, stood close enough to its hallowed glow, to know that it truly exists, and that Muldoon is its prophet.

It's not envy, either, that makes me acknowledge Muldoon's luck-though there's plenty of envy involved, along with a goodly measure of maddening frustration. Nevertheless, I have seen Muldoon elbow his way into one of those two lines of luckless anglers futilely dipping their eggs or sponges into the fast water below the dam on the Saugeen, and on his first cast take that 10-pound rainbow that all the others were merely dreaming of for hours on end. Michael Muldoon, I have to admit, is a fine, experienced, skilled fisherman who takes more than his share of trout even when not graced by his peculiar luck. He reads water like a master, knowing every lie, riffle, old tire and beer can in the stream. He's open to new methods and is an adept caster with both spinning and fly tackle. Even more, he's a self-competitive and determined angler to whom getting skunked is as appealing as a case of leprosy, and who can thus almost will trout into his creel.

But all in all, with some of that honesty usually alien to fishermen, and no little immodesty, I must admit his skills and knowledge are no greater than my own. I, too, read water; I cast as well, if not better; and I, at least, have read and applied the lessons of Walton, Cotton, Halford, Brooks, McClane, Schwiebert and Wright. (I'll take any help I can get.) The only angling author Muldoon acknowledges reading is Milford ("Stanley") Poltroon. Yet Muldoon outfishes me every time, from April to September, on big rivers or small brooks, with trout, coho, chubs and suckers. And this, ultimately, I can accept as good luck, that Muldoon is blessed with Irish fortune by whatever blind gods rule the waters, and that I am not. It's Muldoon's luck-that final, unbearable touch of grace-that leaves me in the blue funk of despair. Some day, I suspect, pushed by Muldoon's luck into areas of frustration no fisherman can be expected to endure, much less tolerate, I am going to kill him. No jury with a fisherman in its ranks would ever convict me.