The fishing trip represents a resurgence of the patients' virility. Outside the asylum, the men can express themselves after McMurphy sets the tone for them. Deep sea fishing is a manly venture; added to this, there is a loose woman coming along.
Even before the men arrive at the dock, they stop to get gasoline in the doctor's car. When the gas station attendants think they are going to bully them, insisting that they need supreme gasoline and they want to buy sunglasses and other things, McMurphy steps in and gives orders to the employees. He tells them that they want regular gas at a discount of three cents a gallon less because they are on a government expedition. Then, McMurphy says that are not just ordinary patients from the asylum,
. . . we're every bloody one of us hot off the criminal insane ward, on our way to San Quentin where they got better facilities to handle us. . . . You see that big guy? He's an Indian and he beat six white men to death with a pick handle when they tried to cheat him trading muskrat hides. (part 3, Ch.2)
McMurphy also tells the attendants that he is a back-lot boxer who killed a man in the ring. Quickly, he yanks the ten-dollar bill out of an attendant's hand and tells him to charge the bill to the hospital because he is going to the grocery store nearby. When McMurphy returns, "everyone was feeling cocky as fighting roosters and calling orders to the service-station guys." For McMurphy has set an example of virility for them. Harding tells him, "Never before did I realize that mental illness could have the aspect of power, power. Think of it: perhaps the more insane a man is, the more powerful he could become. Hitler an example. . . . " But McMurphy and the Chief realize that the men are just posturing; they are still not really brave.
When the captain of the boat refuses to take the men out because he does not have the proper papers signed, McMurphy suggests that they make a phone call. In a short while, he returns and tells the men. "Pile in, crew, it's all set! . . . " The doctor hesitates, asking if they should not wait for the captain. McMurphy grabs him and tells him the captain is calling a phone number that belongs to a Portland whorehouse. The old Swede pilots the boat, and the men catch fish, some of which are huge. On the way back to shore, the boat is waited down with the fish, and there are not enough life vests to go around. The doctor uses this fact as a counter-argument when the police and the captain are angrily waiting for them. But first, the doctor informs the policeman that he has no jurisdiction over their legal, government-sponsored expedition. If they wish to dispute anything, they must take it up with a federal agency, but there could be a problem because there were not enough life vests. The captain is quiet, and the policeman takes notes and leaves. Everyone shares a celebratory beer together. Billly makes a date with Candy, the prostitute who has been on the boat, and seems to have cast off his shyness and intimidation.