One of the things I find missing from my adult life is the simple joy of fishing. When I was young, I used to enjoy dropping a line in the water, though admittedly I’d get a little bit frustrated on days when the fish weren’t biting. And by frustrated, I mean enter a China Syndrome style meltdown that made fishing an opportunity to gain Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for anyone in a 120 yard radius…until the fateful fishing trip where I gained that primal, y-chromosome understanding of the zen of fishing. There’s a reason they don’t call it “catching fish”…that’s not where all of the fun is. My best fishing memories don’t really involve the fish at all.
Everything changed on the Epic Fishing Trip. This particular trip was long ago, and I had just entered the teen years. Filled with the certain knowledge that I knew everything, and would change the world, I was taken on a vacation to Bennett Springs, a great trout fishery in Missouri. My imminent solving of the world’s problems would have to wait, as there were surely some rainbow trout that were about to board the Frying Pan Express. I’d spent weeks discussing method with my Dad and his best friend, and been gifted with the Holy Grail of trout-catching tools, the Little Pink Yarn Bug.
The idea of the Little Pink Yarn Bug seemed to be that it would resemble nothing at all natural on the gods’ oh-so-green-earth, it being a bait-by-Barbie lure that perhaps Dad’s friend had gotten from Mary Kay. Perhaps the key to this lure is in the name Rainbow Trout…did Don assume the fish were gay, and thus unable to resist the fabulous nature of his lure? In any case, he assured me it was his Secret Weapon, spoken of with a reverent tone and hinting at the destructive nature of a hydrogen bomb. I was about to engage project: Troutmageddon. Or so I thought.
The original plan for the trip was a 5 day trout catching extravaganza at the Springs, with my parents and my aunt and uncle. This would change over the coming days.
Day 1 was a slow day. It crawled by with all the enthusiasm of a tortoise with a sprained ankle, which has also gotten fucking baked on a joint laced with ludes. Day 2 was slower. The trout, schooling in the pristine water, seemed immune to my persuasion. They would scoff at my lures and baits; and it may just be my imagination, but I seem to recall a group of them giggling at me while gingerly taking filet mignon off another fisherman’s line.
“What the hell is this kid using, Joe?” one of the trout surely said.
“I don’t know, Bill, but it looks like it fell off Elton John’s stage costume.”
“Well, Joe, let’s swim over to the other bank…there’s a guy over there offering up some shrimp cocktail and bourbon.”
Midway through the third day, the trout had still avoided every one of my 10,367 casts. I dropped a bare hook for a little 4 inch Ozark Sculpin to nibble on just to pass the time. My frustration began to climb.
We moved to a spot just short of a spillway, and set up just in front of a very large school of trout. My uncle was just to the right of me. Before beginning my next assault on the enemy, I had a sit down on a rock by the stream, taking my repast…an olive loaf sandwich and a bottle of IBC Root Beer. The trout had enlisted allies, though, much to my chagrin. My root beer was ruined with a wet “Spack!” as a blackbird above me relieved himself. I didn’t witness the trout high-fiving the bombardier bird, as I was busy giving my uncle the Glare of Death for his witty rejoinder…”Better thee than me, kid”. I failed to make him spontaneously combust with my mind powers, which turned out to be a good thing.
I finished my lunch and armed myself with rod and Secret Weapon, the LPYB. I cast at the rear of the school, letting the current’s drift carry the bug across the water, twitching it ever so slightly that it would resemble a struggling insect on the stream’s surface. Masterfully, like an artisan, I reeled the slack in at just the perfect rate, not too slack, not too taut. My uncle and I began to joke and taunt each other in an age old ritual of fishermen everywhere, bragging about the fish we would catch next.
I looked away from the bug, smiling at my uncle. I felt it. A sharp tug on the line, like a bolt from Zeus! Without hesitation, I pulled mightily to set the hook and prepared for the struggle. It was legendary, tugging against me like a Leviathan with…a steady pressure? No turns, no breaks, just steady resistance? My heart began to sink as I realized what had happened. My epic struggle to retrieve a rainbow trout would have to wait at least another cast, as a jackass on the opposite fucking bank had crossed my line.
I reeled in our tangled hooks…my bug, and his spinner bait. My jaw dropped, as the spinner was the cheapest piece of crap I’d ever laid eyes on. It was yellow, and had writing on it proclaiming the location of a local insurance agent. In no way did it resemble a fish…more a cheap Bic pen with a treble hook and a spinner spoon attached.
A small aside here…Trebec, I’ll take Original Sin for $1200.
Answer: Amongst fishermen, more egregious than fucking their wives when they’re not looking.
The question: Casting across someone’s line. Thank you, Alex.
It’s just not done. You look before you cast, and target places where there is no line in the water. Especially when tossing a bait that requires you reel it in quickly, i.e. the spinner. I’ve watched an 84 year old man rearrange a 20-year-old’s dentistry over this topic. Purposely crossing someone’s line is like sending them an engraved invitation to rape your pet wolverine. It is guaranteed not to end well.
I untangled the offending spinner, firing my eye lasers on their low setting at the fishing Philistine. He sat unfazed, and retrieved his line as I let the little yellow spinner bait fall from my fingers with a pronounced “plop!” He reeled it back in, properly chastened. Or so I thought.
I set to, concentrating on the trout, with one eye scanning above me constantly for blackbirds in their employ. You can’t be too careful. Cast. Drift. Reel in the slack. Cast. Drift. Reel. For the next few minutes, I lost myself in the rhythm of it. I looked away again, as my uncle complimented me on my technique. The glow of pride was interrupted as I felt the line jump! I set the hook and started dragging away, and spared a moment to look at the offensive jackass on the opposite bank to gloat at my good fortune…only to see him pulling just as hard.
Yep. Little yellow spinner bait again. Acme Insurance. 1-417-JACKASS.
I untangled our lines again, cursing a blue streak, using all the choice words I’d ever heard Dad use. Some of the younger trout covered their ears, their parent trout edging them upstream out of the range of the torrent of expletives streaming from my reddened face. My uncle giggled a bit, and pulled in a catch…a small one, but a keeper. “Better me than thee, young ‘un”. Wisdom of the Ages, that.
Back to the cast I went, sure I would follow my uncle’s example and pull in a fish this time. One cast. Two. Three, and there it was: the primal feel, the tug, the set!...and watching the jackass pull his rod sharply in perfect concert with mine. He’d crossed my line a third time, which is three times too many. I gave my uncle a look, and he stepped behind me. As I pulled the little yellow spinner bait in for its third trip to me, I pulled my clippers off my fishing vest, and slowly opened them.
As my uncle gave his own death glare from behind me, I held the spinner up for those around me to see. And then I made an example of it, with extreme prejudice. “Snip” went the clippers. “Plop” went the spinner bait, freed from its line. It settled to the bottom of the stream like a shipwreck of old. The jackass gaped, his mouth working up and down as if he was now trying to become a trout. “Better he than thee”, my uncle said. We giggled at each other in triumph.
I did not catch a fish that day, but I’d caught something else. I’d caught hold of a bit of respect from my uncle, and it showed. I beamed as he asked my Dad if he could take me for the next few days off this dismal fishing trip, and head over to a set of lakes nearby that were stocked with bass and catfish. The trout had escaped their meeting with destiny…but the trip was set to continue. I would have my redemption, if it took a stick of dynamite and a net.
I would never again use the LPYB, the so-called “secret weapon”. It never caught a fish for me, except that one 184 lb Douchefish, attached by a thin piece of monofilament to a little yellow spinner bait.
And that one, I released.