Almost all old boating and fishing superstitions originated centuries ago on huge sea-bound merchant and fishing vessels. Over the years, many of them have made their way inland to the rivers and trout streams of the Colorado Rockies. One of the more common and also misunderstood superstitions is this: it is bad luck to take a banana with you onto a fishing boat of any kind.
I am writing this because I see it happen from time to time. An innocently uninformed customer will manage to sneak a banana past my vigilant eyes, and the unlucky snack will make its way aboard the drift boat before a day of fly fishing. I have witnessed the consistent calamity and bad luck that follows. I am convinced that it is not coincidence, but consequence.
The ultimate test came this fall during a FeakNFish float trip on the upper Colorado River. To simplify a long story, not a single fish was hooked or seen until after lunch when the banana was discovered and thrown overboard. Almost immediately we began catching fish. We were able to bring in a good day’s worth of above average sized brown trout. You could say that the sudden change in productivity was due to rising water temperature or some other change in conditions, but I firmly believe it was the banana. According to old tales, we were lucky things weren’t worse.
Birth of a Superstition
Stories of banana induced misfortune date back to the early 1700s in the Caribbean sea. Many of the wooden sailing ships that carried bananas had to travel quickly. This was necessary in order to get the fruit to its destination before spoiling. Crew members that were trying to fish along the way caught little due to the boats speed.
Another explanation is that when another ship came upon the scene of a deadly shipwreck in the Caribbean sea. Many times the only visible sign of trouble were the floating cases of bananas bobbing up and down in the open ocean. This led to the superstitious belief that the bananas themselves were to blame for the lives that were lost.
Probably the most reasonable suggestion is that bananas provided a way for venomous spiders to get on board the cargo ships. Spiders would eventually expand their territory to the crew’s living and dining quarters. Spider bites could not be treated easily at sea in the 1700’s and many became fatal. These deaths are again attributed to the bananas.
No matter the accepted reason, here in the 21st century, bananas are still forbidden on most recreational fishing vessels. Offshore captains in the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Keys have been known to even include Banana Boat sunscreen and Banana Republic clothing in the list of things not welcome aboard.
Things are a little more relaxed here on Colorado’s western slope. I can’t say that I have ever noticed an impact from the wrong brand of sunscreen or clothing. However, the presence of the fruit itself has definitely ruined some potentially great days of fishing. Superstitious or not, every angler should think carefully about his or her potassium intake. Especially before climbing aboard any fishing boat, even if it is a drift boat on a trout river in Colorado.
Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer