I love to fish.
But I hate it.
I hate it because the ecstasy of catching a walleye, netting a trout or admiring a crimson sunset is so often soiled by the agony of lines in props, lines at boat launches or lines of blood drooling down a finger because a wiggly northern pike didn’t get the memo.
“A fine and pleasant misery” is how the late outdoor humorist Patrick F. McManus brilliantly characterized this irony. It remains the perfect description. Ernest Hemingway penned no truer words.
Of what do I speak?
Allow me to share a few of the griefs that I will likely experience this fishing season.
No memory fishing line
Do you own fishing line that has no memory? I do. And I don’t like it. I want my line to have a memory. In fact, I want it to recall with perfect precision that it is supposed to shoot itself through the eye of any jig, hook or crankbait it comes near. I can’t tell you how many times I have bought line that is completely ignorant of its intended purpose. Sadly, the line I buy seems to be ingrained with genetic code that demands it slice to the right of the eye, hook to the left, or hang up on some tiny speck of paint and thereby refuse to enter.
According to Google, a leech has 32 body segments and 32 brains. I believe it. In fact, the leeches I buy seem to have 64 brains because they are doubly adept at avoiding the pointy end of a hook. Many of the leeches I buy even have extrasensory perception. I have concluded this after years of watching the rascals anticipate my every impaling move and quickly morphing into another shape. Yes, one moment a chubby little “I gotcha now” leech is perfectly wedged between my fingers and in the next it has stretched itself into a hard-to-spear black spaghetti stalk. The smartest leeches — and I am sure this is true — even have heat-sensing detectors in their bloodsucking snouts. This is obvious because as soon as my fingers are as stiff as frozen sausages, the brainiacs find a way to tumble into a tiny crevice, where no amount of numbed pawing can retrieve them.
Fly line tangles
One of the great joys of fishing is to cast elegantly to a rising trout and win the reward of a take. Conversely, one of the great pains of fishing is to cast inelegantly and retrieve 9 feet of loopy leader and tangled tippet. Such hairballs are particularly annoying because they make solving Rubik’s Cube with a bag over your head seem easy. Believe it or not — and you should believe it — fishing line scientists have proved that once a fast-moving monofilament leader has made contact with a branch, brush or emergent vegetation it can ball itself into no less than seven square knots, 24 half-hitches and a hangman’s noose.
Contrary to popular belief, I am quite convinced that rocks, boulders and rubbly reefs are not inanimate objects. Instead, they are living organisms that even have eyes and mouths. It just has to be. How else can a person lose so many jigs? To wit, I suspect someday scientists will detect a conversation like this:
Rock 1: “Looks like a half-ounce chartreuse jig with a red short-shanked hook is coming your way. Do we have any of these in our inventory?’
Rock 2: “Why, yes we do. We have 4,282 of them.”
Rock 1: “Well, we could use one more. Bite the guy off!”
Smartphone lake map app
Do you have one? I do. So do my buddies. And here’s what I know about lake map apps. In the old days, we coots never got around to arguing about which reef, hole, point or flat to fish until we piled into the boat and turned on the depth finder. Now, as soon as the boat is hitched to the truck we all pull out our phones, review maps and pontificate our preferences. As a result, we have greatly increased efficiency. The bickering that once took hours to start now begins in the driveway.
Boat ramp dummies
OK. Confession time. I have launched boats for 50 years and, yes, during those decades I have been a boat ramp dummy. I have forgotten plugs, failed to remove straps and discovered dead batteries at inopportune times. Still, the number of aggravating boaters seems to be growing. Worse yet, some seem afflicted with a festering arrogance that transcends ordinary incompetence.
I say this because last year I witnessed quite the spectacle. I watched a woman do an amazing job of backing a $70,000-ish ski boat in the water at a ramp that was as busy as the Mall of America parking lot. Once afloat, her husband proudly lashed the boat to the dock then hopped into the bow, where he struck a pose akin to George Washington crossing the Delaware. From this vantage point he watched their truck and trailer disappear in the general direction of an overflow parking lot that was, apparently, located somewhere near Alaska. Clearly, ‘George’ was going to be stranded for a while, yet there he stood — and quite handsomely I must say — oblivious to the pressure-cooker mayhem around him. In fact, he displayed the kind resolute inertness that comes only from studying a mannequin.
At long last, in an educational display of boating physics, an irked angler broke rank from the lengthy launch cue. Tired of his rear position, he sped to the head of the line with an ancient 14-foot Lund in tow. Next, he pulled into the launch area, expertly aligned the aft of his craft at the offending Moomba, stepped on the gas and, voila, ol’ George beat a hasty retreat to the helm, where he cranked the engine and backed to safe water. Yes, an object that had not been in motion was clearly influenced by one that was.
Well, you get the drift. Half the fun of fishing is catching fish. The other half is complaining about it. The best anglers are excellent at both. Some even look forward to ending their fishing trip early so they can opine on this love-hate relationship sooner than later.
C.B. Bylander is a freelance writer. He lives near Baxter, Minn.