The Greatest Fool Theory
I find fly fishing exceedingly maddening and
thoroughly frustrating in, of course, the most
pleasant way. By that I mean back casts caught
in trees, flies hooked in the crick of your knee,
and tippet material with its own mind annoy but
pale in comparison to, say, traffic jams, Saturday
chores, or Larry King interviews.
By Scott Alexander Burrell, Washington, DC
I recently ruminated on these little irritations as
I endured what I considered the most exasperating-bugs,
bugs everywhere and not a single rise. I could catch
fish, I told myself, if I just knew where they were.
I was fishing for only the second or third time a
broad, flat tailwater in Pennsylvania without out
much in the way of bends, banks, or structure to
direct me. So I dutifully cast to this spot and
that while caddis literally poured off the water.
As my ire rose and my concentration waned, I began
to consider some of these little frustrations.
That little, tiny, miniscule, confounded piece
of thread or hackle or elk hair that thwarts the tippet
from a smooth penetration of the hook eye. The one
that no combination of poking or prodding seems to
fix. The one that disappears each time you hold the
fly up to the sky to try and get a beat on the little
bugger . . . or
This was sort of a running start at a comprehensive list
of exasperations that I might one day compile into a
General Theory of Angling Annoyances, but that for
now solidly confirmed my initial suspicion that fish
hugging the bottom during a prolific hatch is just
about the most galling thing in angling-I dubbed this
a Lead Belly Episode. This little exercise occupied
my mind just long enough to begin hearing a slurp here
and a splash there. Though the number of bugs in the
air had now decreased dramatically, the fish had begun
to rise and I happily settled in for what I expected
to be some fine action.
Snagging your fly, though I am not talking about
when you are trying to sling a back handed curve cast
to a tight lie underneath the rhododendron. I mean
snagging it when you weren't even really fishing like
when you're trying to move upstream or get into position.
Maybe you just made a little flick to set up a roll cast
or. . . ugh.
When your fly line gets caught in those little
metal doodads that are supposed to link your gravel
guards to your boot laces. Mine have never hooked
the boot laces, but have consistently hooked my fly
line. In a small victory, I took a scissors to them
That deep pool with one slender stick right in
the middle. Not a log that you'll put up with because
it is cover but a mere stick that does nothing except
grab your line and spoil the pool. These dastardlies
tend to sway mockingly in the current -"Oh, I'll grab
yer fly don't ya know it."
Fish that rise to your strike indicator.
When you concoct a perfectly good fish story
but upon meeting up at the fish car your buddy proceeds
to out lie you by a mile.
I began to cast my size 16 tan caddis pattern just
upstream from the rise forms. I got good drifts and
though fish continued to feed none rose to my fly.
I added a size 18 CDC emerger on a dropper and then
a size 16. I changed the entire rig to green then
back to tan. I replaced the CDC emerger with a
floating pupa. Then I tried the rig in cinnamon
and gray. I extend my leader and went to 7X tippet.
I tried for the trout off the tip of the boulder
and the one under the overhanging branches. I tried
for several right in the main current. I made a final
set of ten casts. Then I gave myself ten more.
Completing these I reeled in, hung my head, and
started for the parking area where my wife was
scheduled to pick me up. Recognizing now a
slight chink in my earlier pronouncement that a
Lead Belly Episode constituted the most frustrating
occurrence in the sport, I declared rising fish that
refuse each and every solicitation (also know as the
Herb Tarlek Phenomenon) as the most aggravating.
I fervently clung to this proposition for the entire
walk back. It wasn't until I reached the parking area
and saw several fish rising that I performed another
flip flop declaring as the worst a forced exit from
the stream (which I later defined as the Streetlight
Axiom in an ode to childhood when the illumination
of the streetlights marked curfew).
In one last, vain attempt at satisfaction, I unhooked
the caddis from the keeper and slung a half-hearted
cast in the general vicinity of the risers. Like a
cruel smirk, a trout rose to my fly and I missed it.
Given that I had already waffled on three previous
proclamations, I easily modified my opinion elevating
to the number one spot this latest frustration, dubbed
the Tom Veryzer Antecedent (Mr. Veryzer being a whiff
prone middle infielder for my hometown Tigers).
On the drive home, I contemplated these vexations,
my various theories and formulae, and my chronic
squishiness concluding that getting shut out,
whatever the root cause, had to be the paramount
disappointment-the Horse Collar Corollary.
Then (and shame on you if you didn't see this coming)
I threw it all out the window for during my latest
round of angling I encountered the literal apex of
annoyance, the sine qua non of irritation, the
piscatorial fingernails on the chalkboard, a
distraction so perturbing that it nearly drove
me from the stream. Last time fishing, I encountered,
honest to bees, a bird whose song mimicked exactly
the ring of my cell phone. Of all the sounds one
wishes to avoid on stream-one's spouse's voice, one's
boss's footsteps, one's children's baying-none could
be more irritating and unpleasant than the one I
encountered that rueful day.
While this threw into complete chaos my distillation
of the Lead Belly Episode, the Herb Tarlek Phenomenon,
the Streetlight Axiom, the Tom Veryzer Antecedent, and
the Horse Collar Corollary into any sort of General
Theory of Angling Annoyance, it did lead directly
to the Bad Day Fishing Postulate. This postulate
holds (how did I miss it despite seeing it on so
many bumper stickers and gimme hats) that just
being on the stream beats the pants off nearly
anything else. ~ Scott Alexander Burrell
© 2004 Scott Alexander Burrell
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