I am, it has become painfully obvious, the
epitome of the vulgar angler.
Though I raise my hackles when I am surrounded by
Philistines on the pond who have no respect or
dignity in their pursuits of noble fish, when I
sit at home on cold winter nights and read the
Internet bulletin boards, I realize I am not so
lofty as I would like to believe.
After reading Mr. Castwell's column on purists,
I began to realise this. I wear no waders, no
fishing vest. Waders are useless to me here in
the swamps of south Louisiana, for their use
would result in little more than sinking three
feet into mud, suctioned without escape until
some bait casting angler comes along to rescue
me. With my luck, my would-be savior would be
a Philistine I chastised on a pond somewhere,
and he remembers me. Instead of executing my
rescue, he will pluck me in the head with Texas
Fishing vests have no use to me, since I use no
waders. I keep a small tackle bag with me on the
bank of the pond, or in the boat, and all my fly
gear is in there. It is compact and light, and
serves me well, even though it was designed and
sold as a baitcasting tackle bag. I keep no flies
on the band of my fedora, either. I paid $40 for
that fedora, I ain't about to go sticking hooks
in it. A $40 hat may not sound like much to the
purists, but it's a good night at the waterin'
hole to me.
I do not use float tubes on the ponds around here.
Float tubes are little more than a billboard advertising
a free meal for alligators. I do not use pontoon boats,
either, because I am fearful a ten-foot gator might
mistake it for another challenging his claim to the
My waders are knee-high mud boots, known locally as
"Cajun Nikes" and available at any department store,
the black ones with red soles like commercial
fishermen use. These are only necessary for trekking
to the pond through a muddy sugar cane field, where
sometimes I have to run quickly to avoid crop dusters.
My tackle is budget-conscious as well. Among my graphite
and cane rods exists the essence of the price-saving
angler. The most I have ever paid for a rod was $150,
and that for a restored cane rod. My flies come from
Wal-Mart or the Internet, because in south Louisiana
there are few fly shops, and the nearest to me is New
Orleans, more than two hours away. This little Indian
off the Rez avoids New Orleans like small pox blankets.
I do not tie. What little time I am allowed to pursue
my fishing I intend to use to fish. It is worth it to
me to purchase flies and use my time for being on the
water. I am too busy to tie. I am a newsman, I cover
meetings three nights a week usually. Tying does not
relax me, fishing relaxes me. No offense to tiers!
But given a choice between tying flies and buying
them, I'll chock up the dough. It's easier on my eyes.
Add to this long list of vulgarities is the ultimate
insult: All this is used to fly fish for bass and
bream. I've never seen a trout in my life, and
sometimes I doubt they truly exist, a sort of
Shangri-La of fishing. The El Dorado of angling.
The Brigadoon of...well, you get the idea. Trout,
to a south Louisiana fisherman, are speckled and
they do not live in streams.
When I fish out of a boat, it is a twelve-foot wooden
bateau my father built two years before I was born.
The sparkly bass boats pass me by without notice,
their 150-horsepower engines screaming, their drivers'
faces all intensity and concentration and determination
to go to the lake and relax, and everyone else better
get the hell out of the way. Many times have I been
swamped by these boats that come up upon me in a
tidal wave of wake, the fisherman throwing lures
the size of toaster ovens, and screaming, "CATCHING
But it occurs to me that to the gentleman angler of
the fabled North, I am as much a Philistine as the
sparkly bass boat anglers I so demean in my own waters.
Were I to join a Montana fly fisherman on the river,
I would probably put my waders on backwards. I have
only a vague idea of hook and leader sizes. I wouldn't
know a #12 Coachman if I backcast one into my earlobe.
When I buy flies, I look at them and say, "That looks
about right." When I buy knotless leaders (necessary
because of my fading eyesight) I have to use a conversion
chart to figure out the "pounds test" at the tippet from
all that 1x, 2x, 3x nonsense.
I am, after all, the kid who learned how to fly fish
with a fiberglass Heddon and Martin automatic reel. I
am quite proud of the progress I have made thus far.
I now know that "action" in a rod is defined as "the
amount of flippity-floppity movement in the tip when
you shake it." I now understand the rod weight system,
defined further as "a bass'll break that one" and "a
bass won't break that one." And best of all, I now
realize that a "fly box" is a tackle box with Styrofoam
None of my crude ignorance detracts from my enjoyment
of fly fishing, of course. I have a little class. I
have never put live bait on the end of a fly leader.
Okay, there was that one time the bull bream were
chomping down on caterpillars falling from a maple
tree...but there are no witnesses so I cannot be
convicted in any court in the land.
Around my part of south Louisiana, I often run into
anglers who claim to fly fish. I nearly invariably
learn that their idea of fly fishing is using a fly
rod with a leader of long mono, a bobber, and a hook
with a shiner impaled on it to jig for sac-au-lait
(that's "crappie" for the bluebloods). When I do
encounter the rare fisherman who uses a fly rod like
I do, it is like meeting a long lost friend.
I have never owned, cast or laid eyes on a Sage, St.
Croix or Winston product. I suspect they are as
mythical as rainbow trout. I did see an Orvis combo
at a shooter's store in Lafayette once, as part of
a going out of business sale. I watch the fly fishing
shows on television, further lowering me into the
bowels of vulgarity.
All of which leaves me in a predicament. While I am
probably the Philistine of the fabled North, I am the
blueblood snob of the deep South, considered aloof
and downright foolish. I am told I cannot catch bream
or bass on a fly rod. I am told that I would catch a
lot more with conventional tackle. I am told that
there are probably laws in this state against fly
But I plod on anyway, because like the simpleton I am,
I enjoy my fly fishing more than any other type of
angling I have ever done. Just the other day, as I
was casting at bass in a shallow pond, another vehicle
pulled up on the road nearby. The driver got out and
opened the trunk, pulled out a seven-foot heavy action
bass rod with a Zebco 202 on it, loaded with what
looked to be thirty-pound line, and a white five
gallon bucket. Gleefully he marched over to the pond,
sat his bucket down on the ground bottom up, parked
his behind on it, and proceeded to throw a two-ounce
spinner bait with three blades at the water.
"I sure would like to try that one day," he yelled
over at me. I didn't hear the very last few words,
because at that exact moment his spinner bait hit
the water and the splash was deafening.
"It's a lot of fun," I said, without much enthusiasm.
"Looks like it!" he said. Just retrieving his lure,
the heavy action rod was bent over. "You using shiners
I turned around and went home to sulk. A vulgar angler
in a land of Philistines, I am doomed to the obscurity
of eccentricity forever. ~ Roger