Wandering Aengus, Sucker Run
I'll admit to feeling a little nervous. Though my method
was legal, in the back of my mind there was the unsettling
question of ethics and local customs.
By Steve Galea
It was easy to see that people up and down the creek were
thinking the same thing. They wore transparent looks of
annoyance—the kind you get at the express line-up when you
sneak in your eleventh item. It was as if I had violated
some unwritten code—like I was cheating somehow.
Finally, a big, gruff fellow carrying a five-pronged spear
waded up the bush-choked stream and grumbled what I assumed
was a greeting. Maybe it's just me, but encounters like this
make me nervous.
"You're new around here, aren't you?" he asked.
"Yes, I am. It shows that much, huh?" I was the only one in
neoprene waders—or any waders for that matter.
He nodded and gazed towards the pool below me, where
suckers were lined up shoulder to shoulder.
"First off," he began, "I know that the regs say you can catch
'em your way, but it doesn't really seem right, does it? I
mean, you're hauling them in hand over fist. Where's the
"Well, 1 admit that they're easy to get this way, but it
does take a bit of skill."
As if to deflate that point, my line hesitated, and I raised
the rod on another one—a hefty two pounder. My # 16 gray nymph
was still intact, but the 1.5 1b tippet was frayed enough to
"That's another thing," he lectured. "You're releasing every
one and you haven't even got wet yet. That's not how it's done.
Are you some sort of tree-hugging, animal rights sissy?"
"No," I grumbled in my deepest voice. "I'm just here for the
sport. I tug hard, believe me. Their lips probably hurt for
He shook his spear in disbelief. With soggy beard and water
dripping from his massive frame, he looked like a backwoods
version of Neptune.
"Sport!" he snorted. "Why, anyone can catch them on a 4wt
fly rod and a 6X leader. Try using one of these!"
He stabbed violently into the pool and somehow missed
skewering a sucker, even though you could have walked
to the other side on their backs. As his spear glanced
off a rock, he lost his balance and fell in.
Suckers scattered and regrouped as he rose, soaked from
head to toe, shivering, desperate, maniacal.
Up and down the creek, other guys were splashing, slipping
on slick rocks, stabbing with their spears. Every now and
then, they'd get a fish, too.
As I continued to haul in fish after fish, they'd stop briefly,
giving me dirty looks normally reserved for poachers and
parking metre readers. These hurt, but not as much as the
name "sissy." I applied my cherry flavoured lip balm thinking
I'd been called a lot of things, but never that before.
In an effort to understand it, I invited the big guy over
to discuss the matter, man to man. I even cleared off a
spot on my picnic blanket and offered to share my wine
"Shoot, this kind of thing is just plain immoral," he
complained as he chugged the icewine. "Fly rods weren't
ever intended to catch suckers. What's next? Dry flies
"Well, actually, it's been done ..." I offered.
I guess the strain was too much. He snapped "In these parts
floats and doughballs are the only way to go, mister!" he
Fortunately, a couple of his buddies held him back. As
it was, I spilled a little wine—consequently soiling my
waders simultaneously from both sides. They held him as
long as they could before releasing him. I guess they
figured that with him waterlogged and foaming at the mouth
I could probably outrun him.
I ran like mascara at a wedding. Courage and convictions
tend to evaporate when faced with a six-toothed lumberjack
brandishing a five-pronged fishing spear. After all, these
were only suckers dodging pointy sticks and gulping flies.
It wasn't like this was a trout stream. And besides, run
or not, they weren't exactly going anywhere.
Then again, maybe it's called a run for quite different
reasons! ~ Steve Galea
Credits: We thank the Canadian Fly Fisher for re-print permission!
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