Monday, November 06, 2006
Characters in the Stream
We've all seen them--Characters. Fellow flyfishers who have given us pause--either because they inspire us, humor us . . . or cause us to run the other way. The following is a collection of people I've seen or fished with who strike me as interesting fishing characters (some bizarre, a few possibly insane). None of these characters remotely resemble you or me, keep in mind. And it is not relevant that some of them catch more fish than you or me. That's not the point. The point is . . . well, I'm not sure what the point is, but follow along anyway.
The Entomologist This one knows bugs. All bugs. Doesn't even have to make up bug names. Can pronounce the scientific names of all bugs, as evidenced by his pointing out that you cannot pronounce any of them correctly. Has one fly box for every species of midge, caddis, and stonefly. Two for mayflies. Three for spinners. His six "summer boxes" have dozens of grasshoppers with three colors of legs, ants in three shades of cinnamon, locusts (in preparation for the 17th year hatch) and billions of beetles. He has no Wooly Buggers. Often seen peering into small streams, exploring two-inch fingerlings with the same excitement as the Rambo type (see below) fighting a 38-inch steelhead. Sometimes dons scuba gear in two inches of water, getting animated about little pink eggs. Has an uncanny knack of pulling fish out of any water, including city creeks. He can pull a 12-inch brook trout out of your bathtub.
The Connected Crowd This is the walkie-talkie/shortwave flyfisher, possibly touting a GPS and mapping software on his car laptop or palm-sized digital assistance. If he doesn't have a fly on a line, he is researching fly fishing online, and has his browser's favorites set to every flyfishing and insect database in existence. Where spotted: steelhead streams. He needs a worthy adversary. This one has the stalking skills of a sniper, that's why he brings a friend as a spotter with a walkie-talkie. Some may even be shortwave pirates on the lam, occasionally seen throwing dipoles in trees, launching their thoughts over USB and FM, watching their 6 for the FCC.
Rambo with a Fly Rod A very courageous trouting warrior. He has fished where no man has fished before. Has his proven steelhead flies pinned into the wall above his bed, to "impress the girls." Has been known to follow a small drainage for four days with a 50 pound pack on his back, with a compass or GPS in one hand and a fly rod in the other, catching 18-inch indigenous cutthroat trout, the color of which has never been seen before. Doesn't even have to lie as he sucks all the air out of the club house proclaiming his gift to flyfishing godliness. When not in the mountains, is sometimes seen with the Connected Crowd.
Average Joe This one has just started out fly fishing 10 years ago, dropped the sport for five years, and is picking it up again, and again, and again each season. Has 6 types of flies, but fishes with only a Royal Wulff, but is beginning to think about bead-head nymphs. Will dutifully listen to anything you have to save about fishing, but won't understand anything you have to say about fishing. Will automatically assume you are a better fisherman and worth listening to because . . . well . . . you're the one doing all the talking and he is nice enough to not tell you to shut up.
The Terminator Has the cunning of backyard cat. Tee shirt reads, "I practice catch and kill." Bumper sticker reads "My other car is pan-fried fish." Fish is food--no ifs, ands or buts. One thing is certain: this one is getting plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids and will outlive you or me. He wants big fish, really big fish, and catches them with one of five flies: black woolly bugger, red woolly bugger, brown woolly bugger, olive woolly bugger, and a yellow woolly bugger. Could easily beat the crap out of 12 Entomologists. Sometimes seen with the Rambo type. Show him a chironomid and he'll punch you. Mention that he should try an Ephemerella pattern, and he'll beat you up, thinking you just called him a homosexual.
No Fish Guy This is the person who is dutiful about all aspects of the sport. Practices casting on occasion, studies bugs to an extent, buys reasonable flies, kicked over a rock once to see what was underneath and then decided what he saw resembled bugs in books but nothing he or anyone else has ever tied. Catches small fish, but seems happy anyway. Also known as most everybody.
The Old Man This man fished with Theodore Gordon, so he says. He probably has. He ties Bumblepuppies, Tup Indispensables and Cock-y-bundhu patterns just for laughs and shows them to the "chironomid kids", as he calls the young kids on his once favorite lake, which he'll constantly tell you was His lake until flyfishers started becoming more numerous than the midges. Being resourceful with materials at hand when need be, he has been known to tie with dog hair, but mainly ties with starling wings and bizarre parts of mammals and birds from English parts of the world. Sometimes found crouching next to a stream tossing ancient flies to a trout named George, who has been caught and released hundreds of times with the old man's flies. The fish will soon die of old age or boredom.
The Agnostic For him there are no fish here, no fish there, no fish anywhere. When confronted with an unsuccessful day of fishing, he assumes the fish weren't present. Sometimes suspects winter kill or human intervention. If it's true that 10 percent of the fishermen are catching 90 percent of the trout, then the Agnostic assumes the remaining 90 percent of the fishermen are catching not much more than nothing (and probably using attractors). Disturbingly familiar person. Though not to be confused with you or me.
The Shop Guy This person has the finest flies, all tied by people who don't fish and who live in countries not easily pronounced. Easily recognized by the plethora of clothes and gear more expensive than the cheap stuff you have. Sometimes donning the latest design in fly vest/bag combinations complete with hydration system and possibly a radio, if not a GPS. Knows the cfs of every river and creek within a thousand miles. By definition, shop people are very nice people, but like many, won't shut up. Can sometimes be seen with the Connected Crowd.
The Woolly Bugger Guy Has only one fly box. Doesn't like the fact that 90 percent of the fish are caught by 10 percent of the flyfishers, and plans to do something about this with Woolly Buggers. Ten percent of the flyfishers are getting really pissed.
The Paranoid Schizophrenic He keeps a gun in his waders because, after all, "there are some strange people out here." After giving you a cautious glance, if he decides you aren't the enemy, he'll talk your head off. Commiserate with him on all issues, or you're fish bait.
The Well-Traveled Angler This one has been on every stream in every continent on the earth. He has fished in more places with unpronounceable names than you can find in an atlas or online. "Then there was the wild anadromous brook trout in Lake Abacikerizeryz on the northern ridge of the Ural mountains in Russia. You won't find that place even on the internet." He would rather talk your ear raw than fish. A great fisherman. Just ask him.
The Beginner After talking to the Shop Guy, this one appears on the stream with half-a-shop worth of gear: Gortex hat, coat, gloves, vest, underwear; fly rods named after exotic metals and polymers and geometric shapes; boots that actually fit well and don a podiatrist's endorsement; flies beautifully tied (unlike the crap you and I tie) by people in countries who are in the news a little too often for vague political reasons. Sometimes seen fighting a fish bigger than you and I will ever hope to catch, running up and down the river like he has just stuck the devil. Damn it.
Little Girls and Boys Will stand on the edge of a lake as patient as a young tree. Staring at a metronome would be more stimulating than looking at them casting. For kids, fly fishing is fly casting, especially false casting. Don't giggle too much. With enough time, they will eventually catch a big fish on the most technical water in three states. Of course, they will love to learn more about flyfishing from you. Act intelligent around them. Someday, if not now, they will become better than you in most ways that are important.
The Other Guy Stands in the middle of the stream, not fishing. Not doing anything. Just staring at the edge of the stream. Looks around more than fishes. Bends down on occasion. If you are lucky, you'll see him raise his arm for a single cast toward a crease in the current only he, the fish and a nearby rock know about, and then catches the largest fish in three states. He knows you're watching. He knows what fly you are going to use before you do. The only reason you see him is that he probably allowed it. Don't bother being like him. You can't.
The Liar Talks a lot. Fishes little. Needs more friends than fish. You don't need friends. You need to fish.
The Drunken Flyfisher A member of the Liar Crowd. Also a member of the Woolly Bugger Crowd. Has been seen with Rambo types. They catch more and bigger fish than you and I do.
The Hummer Guy Can blaze a trail to the last pristine lake in five states with a simple axle shift. Be careful, though; he could also be a member of the Drunken Flyfisher, the Liar, the Rambo, or the Wooly Bugger Crowds. Fishes with dry flies the size of a small bird. Catches fish the size of a small whale.
The Girlfriend Doesn't have a clue how to impart the kind of precise action to a fly that took you 15 years to learn. Doesn't understand mayfly entomology. Thinks a spinner is something you do in the parking lot. A nymph is something she'd rather not talk about. Catches more fish than you do. Don't get her started on fly fishing. Has tendency to learn quicker than you did, and manages to stay put long enough on the edge of a stream and catch the fish you missed.
The Morally Superior Doesn't even fish. Don't talk to him. When he asks why you hurt fish, tell him "I fish; therefore I am." Be careful, though. He may be right. If a fish ever spoke one word to me, I'd hang up my gear for life.
Former Presidents Write books that publishers are obliged to publish--or else! Often seen with unseen dark figures. Don't walk up to such people and ask how the fishing is going, or you'll be staring at a Glock.
The Flyfishing Worm Slinger Fishes with bait at the end of a fly line. Easily spotted by his casting style, which consists of a kind of lobbing stroke one would use to cast a tomato. Easily confused with the Rambo type, but generally smaller in build. Don't get mad. Get even. Tie a piece of red yarn on your hook and fish it like a worm. Tell yourself it's a leech if this bothers you.
The Elated One Sees poetry in everything. Irony is afoot. The rising fish and the bent supplicant branches are messages only he can decipher. Just say Hello and walk on. Or introduce him to the Terminator.
The e-Bay flyfisher Approaches the sport a little more carefully, knowing that anything bought on e-Bay will be cheap and of the highest quality, even if it never arrives. A frugal bargain hunter on e-bay will typically own the most expensive equipment but somehow still look uncomfortable in his new trappings, sort of like a hobo trying to look well-heeled in an Armani that he found rooted in a dumpster.
Any resemblance of the above to actual people you've met is entirely possible, but probably coincidental and imaginary.