Monday, March 8, 2010

The Fishermen

There are two types of fishermen: sport-fishermen and serious fish catchers. My old granny said that there was only one type: lazy, good-for-nothing liars but this is my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Both types of fishermen are found anywhere that fish can be caught. Many times they are fishing side by side. Both can be found using an appropriately sized hook or lure cast from a fishing rod. A sub-classification of sport-fisherman is called the “fly-fisherman.” This type will never be confused with a serious fish catcher. Their fishing rods are the diameter of spaghetti noodles and designed to cast extremely small hooks that have microscopic pieces of lint attached. Fly fishing was invented for those who are too squeamish to touch pieces of dead fish or worms. My friend Jim B. who is an accomplished fly-fisherman will argue that last point but he’s a fisherman and you know what my old granny says about them. Also, JB maintains that there is honor in not catching fish and the process is as important as the outcome. Go figure.

Sport fishermen and serious fish catchers have one particular thing in common. Both types regularly calculate the size and weight of their fish instead of actually measuring and/or weighing. There is a universal system invented by a fellow named Lenny. It’s called “Lenny’s ingenious estimation system” or “LIES” for short. This is a specific form of math like calculus or something. It was designed to add length and weight to a fish that is directly proportional to the time that has lapsed since the fish was caught. With a little creativity, this same method is applied to the fish that got away. In a rare instance, I was actually able to apply the math to a world-record tuna that I didn’t even hook. This practice gave rise to the saying that….”fishermen are born honest, they just get over it”.

A sports fisherman will quit fishing to have his lunch under a tree or to take a nap. Occasionally he will even throw perfectly a good fish back in the water. He would rather use a lure or fly instead of bait. If he goes home empty-handed, he just does not care.

Then there are serious fish catchers. Their goal is to catch their legal limit at least twice and go home with a cooler full of fish. The least scrupulous serious fish catchers frequently practice what is termed "snagging." To snag, you take this big hook, fling it in the water as far as possible then jerk it to the bank as hard and fast as you can until the hook stops. If you’re lucky, it stopped because an unlucky fish got in the way. It’s not real important which part of the fish gets in the way as long as it’s hooked well. The snagging method was designed to improve your chances of catching fish. This is much better than going home empty-handed and then catching flack from the wife. Although snagging is illegal in many parts of the world, it is accepted by most cultures as a fair and balanced way of putting food on the table. It is actually thought of quite highly in Alaska where it is occasionally legal.
(See “The origin of snagging” elsewhere in this blog)

Personally, I’ve done both. I’ve fished just for the pure enjoyment of it and I’ve snagged salmon to fill the freezer. Once I even had a friend offer to teach me how to fly fish.

My fly-fishing friend is a purist. In his mind, tricking a fish into biting an artificial bug is the ultimate thrill. When he describes how making the perfect cast and presenting the bug in the most natural way results in a hooked fish, his eyes tear up. Mine glaze over.

I had to listen to him wax stupid over fly-fishing so many times that I eventually accepted his offer of a lesson. First he selected just the right fishing rod ( not pole!) out of his collection for me. We practiced in the back yard. He was very patient but I soon got the idea that I wasn’t getting the idea. He talked about loading the rod correctly which turned out to be different than putting it in the trunk in such a way that it didn’t get broken. Finally after many lessons he called and said we would go to his favorite stream and do some real fishing. I have to admit that I was a little excited. I’ve never been particularly opposed to sticking worms on a hook but I wanted to catch a fish on a fly just to see what all the fuss was about.

We arrived at the spot, parked the car under a tree and unloaded our outfits. I put the rod together just like he showed me. He hand selected the perfect artificial bug for me from his own special box of hand-made bugs. We waded into the water. He positioned himself several yards away for his own safety and began casting. It was just like he told me; watching the fish come up and inspect the piece of lint you were offering was pretty exciting. I cast and retrieved all afternoon. I finally felt like I was catching on even though I wasn’t catching fish. I loved the way my bug hit the water with a “splash” but for some reason my friend winced every time it did. His bug was lazy; it just kind of landed quietly with no fanfare. My opinion was that all the fish he hooked were retarded for biting such a boring presentation and I certainly didn't want to catch any retarded fish. Finally we were loading up our gear at the end of the day. My friend put his hand on my shoulder and said, “After one day of fishing, I believe you have developed your own style.” Heck, I knew I had done well but not THAT well! He continued, “Your style is very similar to an elderly lady chasing a dog with a broom.”

Well so much for fly fishing. I knew it was a bad idea to begin with.

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