Backcast Call ’Em Like You See ’Em
IN DEFENSE OF MANGLED NOMENCLATURE
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.