I love fishing. I find it invigorating. It stimulates all five of my senses. I love the sound of waves lapping the side of the boat, or the chortle of a creek tumbling over polished rocks long ago carved from the earth by prehistoric glaciers. I love the vista of serene spruce reflected in the placid surface of a secluded lake against the majestic backdrop of snow-capped mountain peaks. I love the feel of the rod lurching in my hands from the strike of a Dolly Varden, and the invigorating tactile stimulus of a slimy, gyrating northern pike shredding my hand. I love the taste of salt air—that elusive flavor reminiscent of my own blood trickling from the Daredevle spoon imbedded in my cheek. I love the crisp smell of pure, unpolluted wilderness air laden with the burgeoning scent of fish offal being composted by micro-organisms; busy renewing the ancient cycle of life and grossing people out.
However, as much as I love fishing, I hate fishermen. Well…most fishermen, that is. I’m cool with myself, of course, because I’m cool. But I have discovered, much to my dismay, that not everyone who participates in the sport of fishing is as cool as I am. It seems that there are anglers and then there are–you know–“anglers”. In fact, there are several stereotypical categories of anglers with whom I am ashamed to share the sport. Let me attempt to define those categories. By so doing, perhaps I can publicly disassociate myself from these angling imposters.
THE REDNECK: The first deviant subcategory of sport fishing enthusiasts is the redneck. This creature typically wears a sweat-stained John Deere baseball cap which unfortunately does little to disguise his or her mullet haircut. His/her beard is scraggly, untrimmed and stained with tobacco juice. Standard fishing equipment for the redneck includes a case of Bud Light or Pabst Blue Ribbon, an antique boom box that perpetually screams Meatloaf or Alice Cooper songs, several cartons of cigarettes, too-tight bikinis, too-baggy muscle shirts and a jumbo sized box of Pampers.
Fishing, for the redneck, is a family activity. I don’t have a problem with that idea. I take my family fishing, too. The difference is that my family actually fishes, while the redneck’s family runs amok. Shrieking. Throwing rocks at wildlife. Falling in the lake repeatedly. Sprawling about, shamelessly tanning their cellulite in plain view of any passing anglers with weak stomachs. Indiscriminately chopping live trees with hatchets. Playing cops and robbers with real BB guns. Gurgling and cooing and gnawing on moose nuggets and other fishermen’s ankles.
Meanwhile, amidst the bedlam, the oblivious redneck patriarch haphazardly dangles a lure in the lake as he drinks beer out of the side of his mouth that is not stuffed with a wad of Copenhagen. When they are done “fishing”, the redneck and his family drop everything where it falls and leave. Just like that! They pile into their pickup truck with the huge tires, rebel flag bumper sticker and chrome nude woman mud flaps and they simply drive away. I don’t know who they expect is going to come along later and pick up their beer cans and dirty Pampers and cigarette butts and snuff cans and fish carcasses.
THE FLY FISHERMAN: A fly fisherman is to a normal fisherman what a jaguar XK is to a Kia Sportage: expensive, snobbish, stylized, impractical, and demanding. I don’t even know how to fly fish. I don’t want to know. Why would I want to learn that little dance that fly fishermen have to perform? If I wanted to go stand in the middle of a creek and sashay around like a cross between a maestro music conductor and a ballerina with a hip wader wedgie, I could do it for several thousand dollars less. Furthermore, I wouldn’t need to waste my time mastering a technique that requires more practice and discipline than most martial arts.
Fly fishermen think their fishing line is a handle. Granted, I’ve had moments when I couldn’t cast my lure without holding onto the fishing line either, but that was an aberration. It meant my reel was malfunctioning. Whenever I had to pull my line off of the reel by hand, it meant my line was tangled. In the real world, the whole purpose of a fishing reel is to relieve you of needing to handle your fishing line except to bait it or remove lunkers from the end of it. But, I guess nobody bothered to apprise fly fishermen of this basic law of nature. Fly fishermen seem to think it’s a virtue to hang onto their line…and hang onto it…and jerk on it…and hang onto it…and pull on it…and hang onto it some more.
I bet fly fishing was invented by some guy who couldn’t afford good equipment. So he improvised a lame brained fishing style to compensate for his shoddy reel. No doubt when some passerby saw his antics and started laughing at him, the poor sap hastily made up a song and dance about the exotic technique he had invented. Fishermen are good at telling lies with a straight face, so when the laugher swallowed the bait, so to speak, the laughee recognized the marketing potential of his inspiration. Rushing home, he collected all of his broken equipment, and started selling them with an elaborate instruction manual until the fad caught on. Soon he became rich enough to afford a decent fishing pole, with a reel that worked. But the fad, like the smell of boiled cabbage, persisted long after its time.
You see, there are really only two types of fishing. The first uses live bait. The other uses a man-made lure. Because it’s actual fish food, the fish love live bait. In fact, it works so good that it is illegal in many places. It does have its drawbacks though–drawbacks that man-made lures were created to overcome. For instance, artificial lures allow you to trick fish into thinking the lure is alive without the need to get bug guts on your fingers. Man-made lures also free up your spare time so that you can spend it fishing instead of crawling around in the dirt trying to catch worms, bugs, frogs and other creepy-crawly things.
Fly-fishing, in contrast, is a sort of a Dr. Frankenstein mutated chimera of live bait crossed with artificial lures. It’s really the worst of both worlds. Flies don’t simulate live bait very well at all. They have no mechanical motion like a Mepps roostertail spinner or reflective fluorescent colors like an Obie’s Glitter Sparkplug. They don’t even have any scent attractant molded into their rubber body like an Anise Worm. Flies tend to look like exactly what they are: a tuft of human chest hair, a pheasant feather, and a bead tied onto a hook. The way I understand it, the only way to make one of those exotic hand-tied flies simulate live bait is to manipulate them with the aforementioned ridiculous fly fisherman’s dance. A fly fisherman once tried to explain to me that “It’s all in the wrist.” Well if it’s all in the wrist, I could make an Arctic Char bite on a piece of belly button lint stuck to a chocolate chip.
But not only do flies inherently lack the realism of live bait, they don’t even save time like other artificial lures. I think it actually takes less time to dig a can of worms than it does to tie a Caddis Pupa Green Nymph Bead Head. Sure, you could buy one, but all the fly-fishing purists I know consider it a mark of honor to tie their own flies. Whatever! I’ll be busy catching fish while they’re getting a migraine squinting at the Mayfly or Royal Coachman they’re trying to perfect.
THE MOOCHER: This little gem of a character enjoys fishing at the expense of the rest of us. He seems to have a spy network that would have made the pre-glasnost KGB envious. A moocher can hear the dust being blown off of a tackle box on the other side of town. He knows the instant a fishing pole is lifted down from a hook in a garage, 30 miles away. It doesn’t matter if you sneak out of the house at 3:00am or if you secrete your gear in your trunk intending to head for the lake after work. Somehow, the moocher always happens to meander by just as you are loading up to leave.
My neighbor, Bing Snudlick is just such a moocher. The last time I went fishing, he showed up just as I was tiptoeing toward my car carrying a guitar case in which I was attempting to smuggle my rod and tackle. I didn’t see him until he barked in my ear, “Mornin’! Going to a concert?”
A normal person would have been rattled. Not me. With nerves of steel, I coolly threw up my hands and shrieked. That’s a technique I have developed to confuse anyone who tries to startle me. Unfortunately, I lost my grip on my guitar case during the maneuver. It fell to the driveway and popped open, revealing my fishing equipment to Bing’s nosy stare.
A bewildering conversation ensued, at the conclusion of which, I found myself feeling incredibly guilty without being quite sure why. Bing promised not to tell anyone that I was a selfish jerk who responded rudely to innocent questions about where I was going, provided that I let him tag along. Dumbly, I shrugged, opened the front passenger door, and with a bow of resignation, gestured for him to hop in.
Thanking me profusely for my generosity, Bing pointed out that since I hadn’t bothered to mention that I was planning a fishing trip, he hadn’t known to grab his rod before he left the house. Appropriately ashamed of my crass behavior, I dug out an extra rod and reel for him to use. What a mistake! Within an hour of arriving at the lake he had stepped on my $80 rod and broken off a line guide, lost three $20 lures and somehow managed to reduce my $120 Shimano reel to a scratched and dented rattletrap. He grumbled for the rest of the day about me providing inferior equipment for him to use. To console himself, he ate all my sandwiches and drank my thermos of coffee.
THE CROWDER: The only thing that matters to a crowder is positioning himself in the spot on the bank where the fish are biting, even if the only place they are biting is where I happen to be fishing. These rocket scientists seem to think that as long as they are not perching piggy-back on my shoulders, I have plenty of room. On at least two occasions I have had to have my face surgically extracted from between the shoulder blades of a crowder who lunged in front of me to cast, just as I leaned forward to net a nice grayling I had been playing for several minutes.
THE COMPLAINER: “It’s cold!” “My feet are getting wet!” “These fish stink!” “The mosquitoes are biting me.”
I can’t stand complainers. What are they doing with a fishing pole anyway? Come on! It tends to be below freezing when you’re ice fishing. Duh! And how exactly did they expect to catch a fish without their tender footsie-wootsies encountering water, the substance that constitutes a fish’s entire habitat? Furthermore, fish don’t stink. Fish smell like fish. To them we probably stink. And the mosquitoes? Let’s think about this a minute. Mr. Complainer is in the process of attempting to deceive a starving creature into biting a concealed, razor-sharp, barbed hook. Then the complainer is planning to pull the helpless creature out of the water until the weight of its entire body is suspended from its upper lip. Next, the complainer is going to either allow the creature to slowly suffocate to death, or else bash the creature repeatedly in the skull with a rock until it dies. But that’s just the beginning. The complainer intends to then take the murdered creature home, disembowel it, behead it, skin it and carve the flesh from its bones. After that, the complainer hopes to subject the mutilated flesh to high temperatures, and then in the culminating act of his orgy of violence, he will eat the dead burnt fish muscles until nothing remains but a burp. He will do all of this without demonstrating the slightest twinge of compassion. And he feels persecuted because a mosquito is biting him!?
It’s tough to remain positive and enjoy the sport when the waterways of our beautiful state are crawling with wannabe anglers who fall into one or more of these categories. I just pray I never run into a complaining, crowding, mooching, redneck fly fisherman! If I ever do, so help me, I will swear off fishing permanently.