Featured bloggers Leo Lovel and Tony Kidd offer stories that will leave you begging for more while FlardaFish artise Clay Lovel features his coastal art inspired by a life and living on the water.
Fishing, in and of itself, is something that at once conjures up emotions of either an extreme nature or bored apathy, yet is also considered by some to be the essence of life itself. It is a profound undertaking, activity, obsession or sport, depending upon the objectivity of the person pondering what can best be described as a mania. Fishing has been essential to the survival of our species for thousands of years, in whichever form was common among various groups and clans, and harvesting was by club or spear, hook or trap. In our evolutionary development (and this isn’t a forum for arguing Darwinian principles) fishing methods have evolved at the pace of our own. Since the majority of the world no longer fishes for sustenance, it has become an activity of leisure and sport, and the direct commercial supporting market for fishing has become a major economic force.
When reading my opening paragraph, one may believe that this treatise is intended to be an informed essay about the impact fishing has had on world culture. It is nothing of the sort, so scientific and even educated minds should probably read no further. Over the years, I have formulated some opinions about fishermen in general, and they fall into classes. I’m not speaking of the commercial types; they are their own subculture and have their own place on the fishing ladder, and I truly believe I would be doomed to a life equal to that of Salman Rushdie if I were to jump into that pool. And for those of you who may be a commercial fisherman, or related to one, please note that I made the reference to pool as a generality, not at all referring to a gene pool, nor that the non-referenced gene pool that I didn’t speak of would be very small indeed due to interbreeding and family trees that look like telephone poles. I refuse to get dragged into that quagmire, although I may later relate to you the story of one commercial fisherman who was proven to be his own father.
The classes of fishermen I’d like to discuss are all over the chart, from the typical meat fisherman with a “more-is-more” attitude and a john boat to the sun-bleached South Floridian weekender with a million dollar Penn-Yan. It’s an almost perfect food chain, if you will, with economics playing a large part in the diversity of the classes. I may sound like the Karl Marx of fishing, so please forgive me, but Я не даю дерьмо. Anyway, the vast majority of people one may see fishing from bridges, riverbanks and shorelines are, for the most part, hindered by economics. The typical land fisherman isn’t interested in sport, but meat. Their goal is to bring as many fish and as much meat to the table as possible. We once de-oxygenated a pond in order to clean out the existing fish for re-stocking, and invited some folks over to remove all of the offending fish. There were very few bass and bream in this particular pond, but a plethora of bowfin, suckers and shiners. The next day their community church had a fish-fry that is still talked about to this day. I admit that I attended out of curiosity, and even sampled some of the wares. Who knew that you could actually fry a lake shiner? The grease and meal tasted pretty good, and I think I even saw some meat in between the bones. In case you are unaware, shiners and suckers have bones floating in their meat, completely unattached to any other structure and seemingly randomly placed, even running sideways to punish anyone foolish enough to try and eat one. Another thing I noticed was that the heads weren’t removed before cooking. Now, this doesn’t bother me in the least, and after a few beers I decided to try an eyeball. While projectile vomiting doesn’t accurately describe the ensuing event, surely dry heaves and gagging does. So, in a nutshell, the typical land fisherman fishes for table fare and little else, with no flashy lures or gear and the most rudimentary of methods, but they are still very effective.
The next class I think is appropriate to discuss is what I call the “wanna-be”. He can talk ad nauseum about his latest exploits and fishing holes, but his teeth are too white and his tan usually too even. He will sound like an ad in a fishing magazine, rattling off statistics about gear ratios and line stretch, and have appropriate specifications to boot. He won’t have chapped lips or look anemic from no-seeum bites, but to the contrary: every hair will be in place, and he could have easily stepped from the pages of Cabela’s. He won’t have the requisite notch in his eye tooth from biting line, or burn marks in the creases of his fingers from trying to slow a large red that is stripping line from a reel, or even the “raccoon eyes” one gets as a result of neglecting facial sunscreen. He can actually see through his designer sunglasses, and there isn’t any dried blood or slime gunked between the glass and the frames. In fact, his sunglasses are worn as an accessory rather than a necessity, and he probably still has the case. To identify him even more accurately, look very closely at his fishing gear. The rods will have no nicks or abrasions, and the reels are full of perfectly spun and unfaded line. His tackle box, while of the highest quality, has none of the telltale slime and accumulated salt crust that these boxes attract when they are taken on repeated trips. The interior of the box will tell an even greater tale, with all of the pristine lures and hooks perfectly situated and categorized, and every small hand tool known to man in its place. Every real fisherman knows that the best pliers are the ones you forgot to put in the box, and the best lure is missing most of its paint, or your partner has the last one….and it’s tied to his line.
The “upper class” fisherman is in the billfish category, only fishing from expensive boats and in exotic places. You will never witness a bill fishing trip originating from a Panacea, Florida landing, for instance, unless it’s a drunken outing that will result in nothing more than endless trolling and a large sunburn. I can’t speak with any authority on this subject because I’ve only been on one bill fishing trip, and it began in Mexico Beach. The only reason the trip was remarkable is because it was the trip in which I lost my virginity. I can only assume it was because I was the smallest, and a lot of the guys were bored, but that’s another tale for another time.
Now, for what I call the “true” fisherman, or “guys like us”. Please forgive me, fisherwomen, but for purposes of this article “guy” refers to you as well. This person, while probably just shy of being obsessed, spends a great deal of time each day thinking about fishing. He (or she) may neglect certain areas of his personal life in order to chase fish. Personal hygiene is typically the first thing that becomes secondary, at least in preparation for or during an outing. In comparison, a day trip to Disney World with the family requires an extra piece of luggage just to carry toothbrushes and various toiletries, whereas on a typical fishing trip, a finger vigorously rubbed across the teeth and torn shirttails usually suffice. The urgency to get out on the water is usually only quelled by a stop in a favorite tackle shop, in which case the urgency screeches to a halt while said fisherman fondles the wares. Who among us has not gritted his teeth and stamped impatiently while the clerk at Wal Mart decided to chat with the shopper ahead of us in line, who incidentally decides to pay with pennies while the peak feeding period draws near? I for one have entertained fantasies of throwing a twenty at the cashier and telling her to keep the change as I sprinted by. It’s almost as if some people wait to shop on an incoming tide, or at peak moon phases. On that note, people have always claimed that the moon does strange things to them, and I have come to the conclusion that they are correct, in more ways than they know. It is a known fact that the moon controls the tides, and the movement of those tides causes the fish to bite and fishermen to temporarily lose their senses. As an experiment, plan a fishing trip on the worst possible day with terrible conditions, and also a trip during a peak time, when fish should literally be jumping into your boat. During the bad conditions, in which the tide is slack or non-existent all day and the moon seems to have lost it's gravitational pull, you can get from Tallahassee to the coast in five minutes. It will be as if Moses has parted the Red Sea again, but just for you. People will wave at you happily as you fly by, policemen will stop traffic in contrary directions to allow you safe passage, and the wind will be at your back. Conversely, on the days when the tide is ripping twice per day with a four foot change, the Solunar Tables are screaming for animals to gorge themselves, and there is just enough breeze to keep the biters away, the moon will wreak havoc on everything. Stoplights slow to a crawl. Traffic snarls around the Capitol and downtown. Every road crew decides to break in an illiterate rookie to hold the “STOP” sign. Shoppers flock to Wal Mart for reasons even they don’t know themselves. Your significant other decides to call and discuss the most important thing that has happened to him or her since Reconstruction. Your child will become sick with retroactive birth defects, or possibly a phantom third arm.
I’ve gotten off track, even though I’m not entirely convinced I was on one to begin with. In summary, let’s go fishing. Who's in?
July 6-8, 2012:
24th Annual Big Bend Saltwater Classic
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"Fishing, in and of itself, is something that at once conjures up emotions..."
Tony Kidd explains it all
Specializing in fly-fishing and light tackle, and based at the Watercolor resort along the beautiful beaches of south Walton County.