Back­cast Call ’Em Like You See ’Em


Saltwater Sportsman - - Table Of Contents / Departments - DOUG PIKE

The fu­ture of recre­ational fish­ing de­pends, in part, on the abil­ity of one gen­er­a­tion to teach it to the next.

A few things I’ve heard, di­rectly and in­di­rectly, have me won­der­ing whether prospec­tive an­glers are get­ting proper in­tro­duc­tions.

I’ve never for­got­ten the story, from years ago, of when a fa­ther and son shared deck space on a guide friend’s boat. “See that mul­let jump­ing by the shore, son?” the dad asked. The boy nod­ded. “He’s jump­ing be­cause he’s happy.”

“Ac­tu­ally …” my friend started, and then stopped. Bet­ter, he fig­ured, to leave the son con­fi­dent in his fa­ther’s wisdom — even if the fa­ther wasn’t so smart.

More re­cently, in a lo­cal sport­ing­goods store, I over­heard a guy teach­ing his young daugh­ter and son about fish­ing tackle. He did well enough ex­plain­ing push-but­ton reels, and he ac­tu­ally got “bait­caster” right when he pointed to­ward a case filled with lev­el­wind reels.

“And these,” he said, wav­ing a hand as if show­cas­ing a washer-dryer combo on The Price Is Right, “are called spin­ning wheels, be­cause they work like the spin­ning wheels that peo­ple used to make thread in the old days.”

“IT’S A SPIN­NING REEL!” I screamed. Not aloud, be­cause that would have been rude. But I thought it.

Who taught him that? I fol­lowed, feign­ing in­ter­est in the gear at my fin­ger­tips. Close enough to hear, but far enough not to be no­ticed.

I couldn’t imag­ine worse mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions of fish­ing terms and tackle. But then he walked his kids down the next aisle. “These are fly­ing rods,” he de­clared, pick­ing up one of the pret­ti­est 8-weights on the rack. “When you fish with these, the line flies through the air.”

Sweet Mary in Heaven. I closed my eyes and but­toned my lip. It wasn’t my place to cor­rect a grown man, and his de­scrip­tion was re­ally sort of beau­ti­ful, even if it was dead wrong.

Only a cou­ple of months ago, while walk­ing the Surf­side jetty near Freeport, Texas, I spot­ted a cou­ple more things that were tough to ig­nore. (Side­bar: This place, when con­di­tions are right, gives up lots of fish. I’m there of­ten through sum­mer and fall. Thank­fully for the re­source, there is no min­i­mum skill level re­quired to fish there.)

The day’s first cu­rios­ity was a man who’d brought a 10-foot surf rod and “spin­ning wheel.” And a buzzbait. I’ve got some bass fish­ing on my ré­sumé and know some­thing about buzzbaits, but I don’t know of one that’s ef­fec­tive along coastal break­wa­ters and jet­ties. I wished him luck and kept walk­ing.

A bit far­ther out was a man sling­ing live shrimp un­der a cork. Ac­tu­ally, corks. About 4 feet above his bait was a tra­di­tional Gulf Coast pop­ping cork, which should have been tied to his run­ning line. But above that cork was a sec­ond, a nat­u­ral cork ball about the size of a plum, and above it — re­ally — was one of those red-and-white, springloaded plas­tic floats an­other size big­ger.

Had Capt. Smith af­fixed such a rig to one of Ti­tanic’s smoke­stacks that fate­ful day on the North At­lantic, her frac­tured hull could not have slipped be­neath the ocean’s sur­face.

I re­mind my­self of­ten that a great appeal of fish­ing any­where, any­how, is that we can do it how­ever we like. And we can call our gear what­ever we like.

So long as we be­lieve it’ll work, it might, and that hope keeps us fish­ing. Here’s to spin­ning wheels and fly­ing rods and buzzbaits and cork stacks. And to the fish­er­men who use them.


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