Having Manners Is Not Elitism,
By Ol' Red, Aurora, Colorado, USA
It's Just Chosing Not To Be A Fungus-Head
Picture this if you will: It's Saturday and you're standing in this perfect little stream.
Birds are chirping, but even they decide to mute their tones because it's just that
kind of gentility wandering about that forces the better part of discretion, even in
a bird. The stream is just noisy enough to block out errant traffic sounds. You can
see someone throwing line every so often, and should they come close enough,
the grudging sounds of, "Having any luck? Me neither. Nice day for it though,"
are hollered before these few anglers pass each other like ships merry-bent on
their own assignments. All falls silent once again. Well, at least as silent as it gets
out in Nature's face. There is a sudden dead calm in one little pool you've been
casting at for a half hour. You know, the one right under that overhanging tree
branch? The one place where you know those damned trout are hiding, just
waiting for the precise angle, speed and plop of just the right bug?
And then the world shatters in a cataclysm of water heaving to the sky and
the heavy, feel-it-in-your-gut sound of "THUUUUHWHOOOONK!"
Suddenly, the fish are hauling tail up the river faster than you. You're only running
uphill because you were caught in a moment of total and perfect fugue state where
you were one with all things and time, space and lack of rising fish were melded
together into perfect harmony when the whole metaphysical perfection caved in
on you without warning. The fish are hauling tail because they don't think
metaphysically. They're just thinking, "what in the hell was that and how far
behind us is it now?!"
With that begins my introduction to you of, 'The Family That Plays Together.'
Actually, I have a whole list of fungus-heads, but for now, I'll start with these
puppies because, out of all the denizens that could possibly screw up a really
good day of fishing, these are, at the moment, at the top of my list.
You know them already. I know you do. We all do! The family usually consists
of Father Dolt, Mother Dolt, and Little Dolt-In-Training. (The number of the latter
may vary here, usually between 1 and 3, unless it's a family reunion, and then there's
just too many to count.) Oh, and let us not leave out Fido Dolt, the family dog.
These are people (I'll call them people because you wouldn't like what I normally
call them, unless you're a Marine or former Marine who was at one point a Drill
Instructor) whose idea of "wilderness" is any place which does not have a K-Mart
every half mile. Their family hobbies always include anything that has air conditioned
comfort, testing parental skills by attempting to find exactly the right toy to hush the
squalling, screaming, kicking child throwing a tantrum in public, and occasionally
deciding to "rough it" by packing the Family 'Deathmobile' with family, dog and
grub and heading into the mountains to find a stream in which to play.
I'll speak the truth here. I have no problem with family outings. In fact, people
should practice them more often, as it tends to leave the K-Marts bereft of
squalling, public tantrum throwing children, which makes enforced shopping
much nicer for me. It's the way in which they practice these outings that makes
me want to go buy a hunting license and practice saying the word "Ooops!"
with utter sincerity.
Before I get to the rules of 'Fungus-Head Behavior In, On or Near a River,'
here's a quick test to tell if you are in fact, a Fungus-Head:
If you answered "no" to all these, you are a Fungus-Head. So's your family. If you
answered yes to number 5, you're lying too. You just think that five questions in a
row that have the same answer is somehow unnatural.
- 1. Are you wearing waders?
- 2. Are you carrying a non-spinning rod & reel?
- 3. Did you have to buy special boots because tennis shoes in rivers
only lead to snapped bodily parts?
- 4. Do you know what the term "watch your backcast!" means?
- 5. When someone around you yells "The hatch is on!" do you peer
at the water instead of looking up into the trees to see the cute little birdies
catch their first peep of sunlight?
Now that that's established, here are the Rules:
1. No matter how much you want to throw errant rocks back into the river,
don't! Nature wants them dry for her own personal reasons, and that's that. Now
put that rock down - GENTLY!-and let your kids stare at the water rushing past them.
Of course, we all know you can tell a Fungus-Head the rules, explain them to
one in great detail, and perhaps, in extreme cases, sic a lawyer on em. But, as
a species higher on the evolutionary scale than say, a Fungus-Head, flyanglers
should resort to what they know best: Stalking and observing their prey, figuring
out what they'll go for, and tossing that at em.
2. Yes, you and your fellow fungi may in fact soak your feet in the river. You
may even move your legs about a bit. However, you may not have stupid contests
about who can kick up the most water or who can kick it higher.
3. If there are people about (by "people" I mean real people in silly hats with
poles standing crotch-deep in a river glaring at you and your satanic, rock-hurling
spawn) practice what some people like to think of as "graciousness." A little cellular
memory recall of your family's hunting days would help too. Think like the mighty
hunter. If you sit still for two minutes and watch and decide "these people are being
very quiet. They are moving through the water while trying to make as little sound as
possible. Oh, look! They're throwing line with a bug out there and staring intently at
that dark splotch of water," then you should assume they're being sneaky and quiet
for a damn good reason. Graciousness would dictate that your brain take all this in,
accept it, and quietly, you and your family would back away and head to other parts
of the river (always downstream) where there are no others doing things like this.
Unless you want to openly admit to being a Fungus-Head, and then you and your
spawn will jump into the river and scream, "Whatchall doin' up there, huh?"
4. Anyone screaming the above mentioned stupidity at a fly angler, throwing
rocks into a river, throwing children into a river, throwing a stick or chewtoy into
a river to get a stupid dog to retrieve it will pay the penalty. The penalty has no set
definitions, it's just whatever the guy or gal you just majorly ticked off decides, and
can include anything from hurling verbal insults to rocks.
Frankly, we're through being nice to incredibly stupid people who believe that their
"rights" to do anything anywhere they please without one thought to someone else's
rights outweighs everyone else's rights to behave with dignity and grace while still
having a really decent time. Your rights are no more important than anyone else's.
Read that again. Now, call your lawyer and have him or her explain the concept to you.
5. You may:
- 1) dangle feet in the river,
- 2) play with your dog (over there),
- 3) chat with your kids about how pretty things are, what kind of bug that is,
why the water is so cold, and what are those people in the funny pants doing,
- 4) having lunch with said family, but up by the car or at least 10 feet away
from the river because you'd just dump sandwich parts and soda cans into that
lovely river without the slightest pang of the injustice you are doing to the pristine
beauty the rest of us non-Fungus-Heads work our butts off to ensure for our kids,
families and dogs.
- 6. You may not:
- 1) use the river as your wilderness garbage disposal,
- 2) talk to anyone standing in the river unless they speak to you first,
- 3) wave things or sing to attract the attentions of anyone in the river,
- 4) throw tantrums, rocks, cans or dogs at anyone or anything.
My favorite was finding the dead St. Bernard carcass about two feet from one
of my favorite fishing spots when a family of Dolts arrived. The smell did not drive
them away. The rigor mortis only fascinated them. Daddy and Mommy took their
little doltish crew off to harass the river and everyone in it while smiling angelically
at each other over how perfect their lives and children were. When the little girl fairly
danced up to me and started barraging me with questions about what I was doing,
why I was wearing such a funny hat, how come I didn't have rubber pants like the
other guys and the constant, "Why ya doin' that, huh?" I came to a decision. Very
cautiously, I peered around, my steely eyes closed to slits that a Vietnam Vet would
find fascinating. I waved my hand for her silence while squatting down further into
the river. And I did it very slowly. She fell into utter silence.
"See that dog up there?" I nodded my head in the general direction of the carcass.
She nodded silently, her mouth a tight "O" of anticipation. "Bear ain't done with him yet," I
whispered trying to do my best Mack Bolan/Mighty Huntress imitation.
When I turned around, she was gone in a trail of smoke and was shouting something
to mommy and daddy, who in turn looked my way, saw my "looking for the bear"
squat, and pretty much decided that they'd had just about enough of nature for that
day, and frankly their chances at an amusement park would be a much happier and
It ain't that you have to be impolite all the time. You just have to assess your prey
and know where to hit.
~ Ol' Red
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