Al Campbell, Field Editor

June 2nd, 2003

Dumb and Dumber - part 1
By Al Campbell

Is a dumb question still a dumb question if it's asked innocently? Well then, how about answers? Is an answer dumb if the person doing the answering honestly believes in his/her heart the answer he/she is giving is true? Sometimes a question isn't really a dumb question until someone replies with a dumb answer and someone else replies with an even dumber answer.

A good example of a dumb question would be "What is the best automobile?" It's an honest question that doesn't become a dumb question until someone tries to answer it before qualifying the question to determine what the needs are. The first dumb answer will probably be "Chevy (or, insert your favorite brand here)! "My great grandpappy, my grandpappy, my pappy and I have always driven Chevies, and by God, we always will!" The next dumb answer will be from the Ford or Dodge guy who wants to dispute the first dumb answer.

The problem here is that the guy asking the question wanted to know what the best over-the-road tractor was to pull his 40 ft trailer full of freight down the road. Now that the question is qualified further, we get into the Peterbuilt, Kenworth and Freightliner crowd of dumb answers. Pretty soon there will be arguments about which tractor has the best fuel mileage or the most horsepower, but the guy asking the question wanted to know about top-end speed.

Was the first question really dumb? Sure it was. It didn't provide enough information for a good answer. However, the real dummies were the guys who answered the question without asking for enough information to give an intelligent answer. The dumber dummies were the guys who argued the point before they had enough information to create an intelligent argument.

Before I go any further with this thought, I want to make a confession here. I have been guilty (on more than one occasion) of providing dumb answers and even dumber arguments. Instead of asking a few questions to refine the original question enough to formulate an intelligent answer, I took the fast and lazy route and gave a hasty answer to a question that couldn't draw an intelligent answer without more information from the questioner.

Have I lost you yet? Ok, I'll slow down and put it in fly-fishing terms so you can understand my point easier.

Here's a dumb question that gets asked a lot. "What is the best hackle for fly tying?" On the surface, it doesn't appear to be a dumb question; and in reality, it isn't all that dumb unless someone tries to answer it without getting more information. However, I'll bet you a nickel that such a question on the bulletin board would draw at least a couple of dumb answers before someone had the common sense to ask what the guy with the question wanted to tie with the hackle.

The first dumb answer might be Whiting (again, it could be Conranch, Metz, Keough, etc.). "Yep, just ask me and I'll tell ya. Whiting (insert the other brands here) is the best hackle; especially those super-micro-itty-bitty-barbed platinum/titanium wonder saddles they sell in size 22." That dumb answer would be followed by at least a few and probably dozens of equally dumb counter-answers suggesting other brands, but without a qualifying question to refine the choices. Sound familiar?

But, what if the guy wanted to tie size 6 wooly buggers and needed soft, wide saddle hackle? The next dumb answer would be from the guy who gave the first dumb answer who is now just trying to defend his comments. His dumber answer will be followed by all the other guys who also gave dumb answers and now want to defend their choices. We're getting nowhere fast, and even though there are at least 20 answers, nobody has answered the question with the right answer he needs.

Do you see where I'm going? Depending on the needs of the guy with the original question, the smart answer will vary considerably between hackle providers. Unfortunately, the guy with the original question will have gone elsewhere for his answer because the whole discussion has fallen into a name-calling session between the Ford and Chevy crowd (or in this case, maybe Whiting and Conranch).

The answer of course is Ewing. No, seriously, Ewing raises the best hackle birds to fit that man's needs. He needed soft, webby hackle for large wooly buggers, and Ewing has the best hackle (wooly bugger saddle packs) I know of for that purpose. Does that mean I think Ewing has the best hackle? No; but I think they have the best hackle for that particular situation. If the guy was tying size 20 parachute Adams and wanted the best saddle for that need, I would have another brand to suggest.

My point here is a simple one. There is no single brand of hackle that is simply the best. They all have their strong points and weak points. Just as there is no such thing as a great logging truck that is an excellent family car; there is no such thing as a single brand of hackle that is best for all situations. The best brand is the one that specifically meets the needs of the tier at that time and for that purpose.

I'm going to leave the subject here and pick it up again next week with some comparisons between the major brands and what I think each is best suited for. Until then, I'm betting the Ford and Chevy crowds will keep the bulletin boards busy with dumb arguments and dumber replies. Some guy in Virginia (or any other state) will say it only rains in Virginia because "This is where I live, this is the only place I have ever been, and it rains here, so since I have observed rain here, my answer is the right answer." Next the guy from Kentucky will want to argue that the guy from Virginia has lost his marbles because Kentucky is where it rains, not Virginia. Watch out for the guy from Kansas. He is a rain "expert", and he's sure the other guys are wrong. Limited experience and strong opinions = dumb answers.

You guys argue over where it rains. I'll explain why I think all the hackle brands are the "best" next week. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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