Hud­dling with Fel­low Man­ics

FLY FISH­ING TRAN­SCENDS DAY-TO-DAY, YEAR-TO-YEAR EX­PE­RI­ENCES AND AL­LOWS US ALL TO RE­GALE IN OUR BEST TIMES AND PAST TRI­UMPHS AND FAIL­URES ON THE RIVER. BOB SOUTH RECK­ONS A FAIR SHARE OF THE RO­MANCE OF TROUT FISH­ING EX­ISTS IN THE MIND AND REC­OL­LEC­TIONS OF T

NZ Fish & Game - - Front Page -

IF TROUT COULD TALK, THEY COULD spin the best yarns of all,” pro­nounced Nor­ris McDowell in a talk de­liv­ered at the fourth an­nual John D. Voelker (a.k.a. the inim­itable Robert Traver) Foun­da­tion meet­ing at North­ern Michi­gan Uni­ver­sity on June 25, 1993. But alas, trout can’t talk, so it is best left to an­glers who pur­sue them to do the talk­ing, right?

Traver him­self posed a most im­por­tant ques­tion in his book TraveronFish­ing, a ques­tion many a cast­ing hacker has pon­dered since: “Do fish­er­men fish largely for fel­low­ship, the com­radely al­lure of later hud­dling with their fel­low man­ics to brag a lit­tle and fur­ther ce­ment their mys­tic broth­er­hood with bumpers of liq­uid glue?” Old Robert thought rather not.

But my ex­pe­ri­ence tells me that at least part of the “al­lure” of fly fish­ing, aside from all the ‘ con­nect with Na­ture’ and soli­tude and seren­ity’ spin, and ‘it’s good for the soul’ gob­bledy­gook, is to spend time af­ter the fact ‘talk­ing it up’, telling the tales, shap­ing and ver­bally photo-shop­ping the ad­ven­tures into in­deli­ble mem­o­ries by re­gur­gi­tat­ing them, some­times ad nau­seam, to mates, spouses, or fam­ily.

It’s an in­te­gral part of the game.

SE­RI­OUSLY, GO TO ANY FOR­MAL OR in­for­mal assem­bly of fly an­glers – or spin, bait, or salt an­glers for that mat­ter – and you will en­counter sto­ries (and re­mark­able fab­ri­ca­tions) about that very day’s fish­ing, tales about past feats, in­clud­ing lies and ex­ag­ger­a­tions about spe­cial days and trophy fish.

At my very own lo­cal in Tu­rangi – Spud’s bar at Park­lands Motor Lodge – guides and an­glers reg­u­larly can be heard yap­ping about fish­ing, trad­ing one-ups, usu­ally spiced by more than a lit­tle lu­bri­ca­tion. This sort of play­ful, mean­ing­less nos­tal­gic dis­course is, if not unique to our sport, ab­so­lutely sig­nif­i­cant. I mean, I know All Blacks of yes­ter­year, and Sil­ver Ferns, Tall Blacks, the lo­cal first XV, all at some stage sit around over a few beers and fondly rec­ol­lect big plays, big games, and so on. That’s nor­mal, ex­pected be­hav­iour. But I’ll ar­gue long and loud that an­glers do these ex­changes bet­ter, more openly, and more of­ten.

Visit a lux­ury lodge, or some place as sparse TALTAC in Tu­rangi, or just gather with a few friends over din­ner and drinks, or around a fire, and an­glers will al­most in­stinc­tively start to share their ac­com­plish­ments – a sad, mis­guided few with con­ceit, most with hu­mour, oth­ers with un­de­ni­able, re­fresh­ing can­dour.

As Paul Quin­nett wrote in Pavlov’sTrout – “When the sun is down and the flames dance and fish­er­men are en­cir­cled by their fam­ily and friends, they can and will speak of all the things deep in their hearts, es­pe­cially life, love, the love of life, and, of course, fish­ing. So crit­i­cal is this social, psy­cho­log­i­cal and emo­tional com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween fish­er­men and the peo­ple they care about that, to any­one who thinks fish­ing is only about catch­ing fish, I can only say: Huh?”

Whether a born an­gling racon­teur, or just a plain old mum­bling Joe, telling and in­tently lis­ten­ing to tales from the river, stream, or lake are glo­ri­ous parts of our sport. All an­glers look back on an ex­pe­ri­ence – ei­ther that very day or in the dis­tant past – and think of in­di­vid­ual cap­tures and of the scenes in which they fished, and given but an ounce of op­por­tu­nity these anec­dotes will be broad­cast proudly, of­ten loudly. As John Mon­niger put it in his book Home

Wa­ters, “Most an­glers… cast to re­mem­bered

trout on re­mem­bered sum­mer days, read­ing wa­ter as it breaks over sand­bars, wad­ing in sun­light, a hatch of mayflies sug­ar­ing the wa­ter just up­stream… and, to a man, they love to talk about it.”

I know you’ve all heard those hack­neyed sto­ries before… like this one told by John MacDon­ald in TheOneThatGotAway: “He was one of those trout over whom the fisher has no con­trol what­ever – ev­ery move an awesome phe­nom­e­non. As the line ran out, I pointed the rod down and straight af­ter him, in a sign of res­ig­na­tion, wait­ing for the snap, which came in due course. So I wound up with just the story and with­out the fish and did the talk­ing at sup­per that night.”

But other yarns are fresh, match­less even. A favourite of mine was humbly re­lated among cob­bers at Kin­loch one au­tumn day by Richard, a gun fly fish­er­man who suc­cumbed, like many con­tinue to be to­day, to the grow­ing at­trac­tion that is the Tekapo canals and its gi­nor­mous trout that bal­loon to su­per-size by gorg­ing on resid­ual fish pel­lets from the nearby com­mer­cial salmon pens.

This par­tic­u­lar day Richard was among a long line of hope­fuls spread tightly along the road­side wait­ing for the big hit, all sit­u­ated within cooee of each other and all en­joy­ing friendly ban­ter. Be­ing the new­comer, Richard was all ears at first. A fel­low nearby soon hooked a be­he­moth and was forced to fol­low it as it sped down canal. Al­most dis­ap­pear­ing out of sight, the an­gler re­leased his fish and upon his re­turn to the group was asked: “What was it?” “It was a 10,” came the re­ply. Not long af­ter an­other chap got smashed and off he ran chas­ing his catch, dragged much fur­ther away from the an­gling throng than the pre­vi­ous bloke. When he re­turned, he was asked: “What was that beauty?”

Pump­ing out his chest proudly, he said with good-na­tured bravado: “That, my good friends, was a 17.”

Suit­ably im­pressed, Richard could hardly wait to emu­late his two com­rades and soon enough his chance came. The hook-up was fierce and, like those before him, Richard was off af­ter it. He nearly dis­ap­peared from sight like the first fella and, af­ter pho­tos and a re­lease, he fair trot­ted back wait­ing for the usual ques­tion.

“What was that, Richard?”

“That, I’m sorry to say, was only a nine pounder, but a good fish all the same.”

Then came the in­of­fen­sive deri­sion. “No, no, no mate, not how much did it weigh. How many road­side mark­ers did it drag you down the canal – 11, 16, 12, 14? We all know the fish are big here, but we tend to mea­sure ‘em by how far down the road they take you before net­ting, not by weight or con­di­tion fac­tor.”

Of course, Richard’s anec­dote has be­come folk­lore in them-there parts. Not too dif­fer­ent to a lo­cal slice of his­tory around the Ton­gariro that con­cerned yours truly, su­per South Is­land guide Tony En­twistle, and friend Chris Clen­shaw.

‘YOU ARE NOT GO­ING TO BE­LIEVE THIS...’

FISH­ING STO­RIES LEND THEM­SELVES FA­MOUSLY TO EMBELLISHMENT, SAYS SOUTH

ONE IN­DIS­PUTABLE THING ABOUT EMBELLISHING FISH­ING STO­RIES IS THAT THE PRAC­TICE KNOWS NO SOCIAL OR PRO­FES­SIONAL BOUNDS

AC­CORD­ING TO ONE AU­THOR, THIS SOCIAL, PSY­CHO­LOG­I­CAL AND EMO­TIONAL COM­MU­NI­CA­TION BE­TWEEN FISH­ER­MEN IS A CRU­CIAL PART OF THE PUR­SUIT

TELLING TALES AF­TER A DAY’S AN­GLING IS AN IN­TE­GRAL PART OF THE GAME

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