August 15th, 2005

Is It Too Easy?
By James Castwell


Ah, summer. Ah, fishing for bass from our clunker boat. The leaky, flat-bottomed, heavy as concrete, squeaking oar-locks, paint-peeling, dry-rotting, launchherinthespring, boat. My folks had a cottage on a lake in Michigan, on a lake, it had fish, I had a boat and a casting rod and reel.

Were you one of the guys who bought the rubber covering thing for the side of your casting reel so it was more comfortable? I was. Did you spend whatever time was necessary to get the pressure on each of the knobs on each side of the reel so it would spin just right? Not too tight, but no play either? I did that. A lot.

And I greased it. And oiled it, and took a lot of it apart and cleaned those parts too. That reel was one of my few treasures. I was deadly with it. Give me a Johnson spoon (with or without Josh's Frog) and I could place it, land it, present it, or skip it by, near, under or along side of any dock (with or without the aid of moonlight). When I turned the handle the line came in. When a fish took out line the handle went the other way.

And then along came my first spinning reel. It was not a Mitchell, I started with a closed face one first. But that doesn't matter. The point is this. It was my start downhill. My back-sliding. My first tentative creeping steps along the 'Primrose Path.'

Gone were my days of being responsible. No longer would it be up to me and my skill in 'reeling' in a fish to be successful or not. Now, it was up to the reel. If I reeled in and the fish went out, I could keep on reeling anyway. I could do that with a spinning reel. With my casting reel if I did that something would bust. Often my knuckles as I recall. I would be cranking in and the fish would decide to go away for a while. My reel would stop and the handles would spin like a miniature merry-go-round in high speed. Usually removing small clumps of hide from any finger parts within proximity. Hence, the term, 'Knuckle-buster' was often applied to them.

And so, now I made it easier to land a fish. And talk about casting! Holy-Cow! Those things flung a bait a mile. The world on the other side of the lake, pond, stream, river and creek opened up for us all. We could now get there and could not screw up landing a fish. And then the new rods came along. Well, that did it. How could a guy fail? Seriously, just what could you do to mess up? No bird nests, no broken lines due to jamming your thumb into a casting reel to stop it, and now rods that you couldn't break if you bent them tip-to-handle. What was left to do?

Well, whatever it was, it was not as much as there had been there before. I had lost something! I had lost part of the challenge or my equipment. The talent to handle my gear correctly. This is not a good thing. Did I notice it at the time? Of course not. Am I sure of it now. Yes, I am. And I think it is one of the reasons that fly-fishing appealed to me, but I didn't know it at the time.

Do I think there are times for a fly reel that is a multiplier, or a direct/indirect drive? Sure, I suppose there are. Is it harder to land a fish on a short/stiff fly rod than a noodley one? We all know that answer. There are even times when a rod might be chosen for it's abilities to land a fish rather than it's ability to cast a fly to the same fish. But, when we make those kind of decisions, are we robbing ourselves of anything? I don't know, only you do, but it might be something to think about.

If we make it too easy, are we spoiling it in some ways. Is it more fun to use a reel that does not have a rim control drag? Some of you never put a fish on the reel anyway, so that wouldn't make any difference. What if you did put all of your fish on the reel? Then what? You missing anything? Don't know.

I have said in the past and still mean it, that if they want to regulate our catches of fish, trout, pan fish etc. outlaw long rods. Make all fishing poles five feet; steel. Reels? Center-pin. Use whatever line you want. No C&R, keep all you land.

Have we made it too easy these days? Have we taken out some of the enjoyment along with the skill and talent necessary to excel at our pastime? I think we have, a little. ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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