In A Grammar and Dictionary of the Samoan Language there is a verb that means "to return from fishing without any fish."

  • Taufua, v. to return from fishing without any fish. Syn. ʻAsa.

My question is, how is "taufua" translated into English?

I'm looking for a single word which renders that meaning in English, but I will accept an expression, too.

A bit of searching came up with "duffer" (an incompetent, ineffectual, or clumsy person) but it doesn't seem strictly related to fishing, and it isn't a verb.

  • To 'draw a blank' (to be unable to get information, think of something, or [procure or] achieve something: Cambridge Idioms Dictionary) is a rather dated (at least in the final sense) expression with this meaning. Sep 7 '13 at 16:21
  • 12
    To return empty-handed is an idiom that fits here.
    – Shoe
    Sep 7 '13 at 16:25
  • 1
    Or similarly "came back empty-handed. You can also find where the phrase "empty bucket" is used. For example: onthewater.com/forecasts/2013/09/…
    – dcaswell
    Sep 7 '13 at 17:04
  • 9
    In my experience, that is called "fishing" :)
    – JeffSahol
    Sep 7 '13 at 17:53
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    if you are trying to make clear it's fishing that you returned empty-handed from, you could coin something like "return empty-creeled"...a play on words, "creel" being a basket for carrying fish while fishing
    – JeffSahol
    Sep 7 '13 at 22:10

"We've had a good catch" or "We've had a good haul" can be said for a successful fishing trip with lots of fish.

"Empty handed" is a good idiom I agree with Shoe.


To return from fishing without any fish: fishing unsuccessfully or unsuccessfully fishing fits into a sentence easily.



The common meaning of the verb skunk is to defeat thoroughly in a game.

Some fisherman use this term in a similar way, to mean "catching no fish at all", "zero fish to the boat". Some fisherman will say being skunked means not catching the species they were after, and any other species of fish doesn't count. Some say catching fish smaller than a certain size doesn't count.

You can find other references to being skunked while fishing, such as this: Why Getting Skunked Makes you a Better Angler. You may see the note at the end of this article where someone expressed the opinion that having a fish on your hook means you were not skunked, even if it gets away. In some responses to the article, the feeling is that if you get to go fishing, then that's good enough - you are not skunked.


As tall tales in English are oft referred to as fish tales (in reference to the proverbial one that got away which seems to get bigger on every telling) it would be quite understandable:

to return from fishing without even a tale to tell.


As per fishing glossary, I think these terms will suit the phrase.

break-off – A fish lost when the line breaks, as opposed to losing fish when the hook breaks, straightens or pulls out.

catch-and-release – Refers to catching a fish and immediately releasing it. Many anglers practice catch-and-release as a way to help conserve the resource. In some waters, such as certain small trout streams, the state fishing regulations actually require anglers to catch-and-release.

While fishing due to break off and catch release practices , fisherman may not be able to catch any fish. So, instead of saying "came back without fish", we can say " It was a break-off".

For Fishing glossary, please refer this link http://www.azgfd.gov/h_f/fishing_glossary.shtml

  • 2
    But what about when nothing's biting?
    – bib
    Sep 7 '13 at 22:14
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    As someone living in an area of the United States where fishing is popular, I've never heard anyone say "it was a break-off." As for catch-and-release, that's a regulatory requirement, not a conversational idiom. Sep 7 '13 at 23:49

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