Fish with the Bish
July 14, 2007
In a late summer afternoon on the Middle Provo, trout were rising to some mysterious insect on the surface.
I was kneeling on a rock keeping a low profile, as though a stealthy approach would help land one of the elusive browns and rainbows. A friend of mine stood at the other side of the river, changing his fly to yet another mayfly pattern.
We had a couple of feeble strikes but for the most part, the hundreds of fish in that hole continually snubbed us.
Suddenly a crashing rumble broke through the bushes and a man, holding a spinning rod and cooler in his right hand and a tackle box in his left, stumbled onto the bank.
We stared at the man in disbelief as he plopped his gear on the ground without any regard to us (we were, of course, at this spot first), and commenced attaching a rapala lure, a large metal object with a three-prong hook that will obliterate a fish’s mouth, to his 50-pound test line.
We rolled our eyes knowing that he wouldn’t catch a thing with that Wal-Mart setup. He clicked on the back of a reel with his thumb, cast his line to the opposite bank and a fish immediately hit the rapala. He yanked it through the water without a fight and stuck it in his cooler. He sent another cast to the same spot and the same result. Two casts, two fish ripped through the water with their fate in the bottom of his cooler.
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We didn’t stick around, we were repulsed by the unsportsman way of the bait fisherman and we didn’t want to be shown up by him either. In about 20 seconds he caught more than we did in nearly an hour.
I’ve heard the saying, "For any type of fishing, the best way to avoid frustration is to master bait."
Now a spinner or rapala isn’t technically considered bait, but for many fly-fishermen, anything other than using flies and a fly-rod is considered bait-fishing. But the saying often rings true. Fly-fishing is often associated with frustration; bait could cure it if only a fly-fisherman could give in.
There are two types of fisherman: bait-chuckers and fly-fishers.
In the novel, "The River Why," author David James Duncan tells of a man who had a hick, bait-fisherman for a mother and an elitist, fly-fisherman for his father. The main character is raised and molded to accept both viewpoints and becomes a better fisherman because of it.
Fly-fishermen believe in catch-and-release, using artificial flies, light line, being in tune with nature, making skilled artistic casts and taking care of the environment. As stereotypes go, bait-fishermen just want to haul something in to put in their freezer, and they don’t care if they leave a coffee can full of worms to mark their territory.
Elitist fly-fishermen don’t want to be seen with this kind, and bait-fishermen probably don’t care and laugh at a fly-fishermen’s snobbish mentality.
This segregation of fishing philosophies isn’t new.
Izaak Walton, in the book "The Compleat Angler," wrote: "O sir, doubt not angling is an art. Is it not an art to deceive a trout with an artificial fly?"
Henning Hale-Orviston in "Summa Piscatoria" wrote: "There is no activity so conducive to the health and happiness of a civilized man as angling with an artificial fly. As for the uncivilized, who would care to contemplate what writhing creatures their inchoate consciences allow them to skewer upon a hook?"
On the other side, Shakespeare in "As You Like It," wrote: "The pleasnt’st angling is to see the fish cut with her golden oars the silver stream, and greedily devour the treacherous bait."
And finally, Homer in "The Odyssey," said: "A fisherman stands on a projecting rock with a long rod, throws in ground bait to attract little fishes, drops in hook and line and at last gets a bite and whips him out gasping."
Such is the way of the bait-chuckers and the fly-fishermen. Whether one way is correct or not, each of us share, to some degree, the words Norman Maclean chose for the last sentence of "A River Runs Through It."
"I am haunted by waters."
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