The Sock Effect: How a Simple Decision Can Catch You More, or Less, Fish

We’ve all heard of the butterfly effect: the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state(!).

Or more simply, how one action or decision can f@$k up everything else that proceeds it. And so it is with socks and fishing. Yes, the choice of socks you make first thing in the morning can have either a positive or negative effect on the results of your fishing expedition that day, at least it does for me.

I have some preferred choices when it comes to peering into my sock drawer. There are times when I can skim a matching pair off the top layer and rest easy knowing that it’s going to be a fairly painless process to put them on.

But, there other times, notably when the washing fairy hasn’t been doing her job, when stock is looking low and a first glance leads to a familiar sinking feeling within. It’s going to be a tricky sock day.

What’s a tricky sock day? At best, it could be that finding a matching pair proves challenging and requires delving into multiple draws. At worst, the only available pair seems to be child-size and necessitates back-breaking contortions and finger-numbing pain to be vaguely prêt-a-porter.


Now it’s all downhill from here; you can’t find your car keys (socks’ fault), you get half-way down the drive and realise you’ve left a box of flies on the kitchen counter (socks’ fault), it’s starting to drizzle (socks’ fault), someone’s already been to your favourite pools before you (socks’ fault).

But perhaps the most disastrous consequence of this chain of interdependencies comes when it’s time to realise the ultimate goal of the final state of the deterministic nonlinear system that we all strive so hard for: to hook and land a fish.

How can socks be blamed for failure in this regard? Apathy, fatalism, glass-half-empty-ness, defeatism, impatience, anger – these can all be directly attributable to our initial sock debacle trigger and are systematically magnified through a knock-on effect in nearly everything else along the critical pathway.

If we’re experiencing such feelings right at the critical moment – deciding whether to cast to a fish, how to cast to it, which fly to use, when to strike, which direction to lead the fish once hooked and countless other critical decisions – then there is every chance such negative emotions will jolt our mental and physical capabilities to the point of throwing us off the path of success and down an alternative and ultimately fruitless chain of events.

The “bugger it, that fly will do,” or “can’t be arsed to cast to that fish – it’ll never take,” attitude will invariably meet with disappointment yet could be completely avoided by simply ensuring a decent pair of socks is carefully chosen and laid out the night before.

So don’t become paralysed by the sock effect (for some time I would just go back to bed if I couldn’t get them on easily in the morning). It doesn’t have to be like this – you can take control of your own deterministic nonlinear system.

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