March 31st, 2003

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Shack Nasties
By Colton Newton

By the time you read this, I fervently hope I'm cured of the malady that has been afflicting me and getting progressively worse for the past several weeks - the "shack nasties," also known as "cabin fever."

The shack nasties attack only a small part of the world's population, non-hunting fishermen who live far enough north that it gets too cold and unpleasant to fish and far enough south that the ice never gets thick enough for ice fishing. With the advent of the Internet, the shack nasties has taken on a particularly virulent form. At first it appeared that cooped up fishermen could ameliorate the worst of their condition by talking with the similarly afflicted over the Internet, but, as it turns out, fishermen who are able to wet a line intrude on the conversations of the ailing with glowing reports of how things are in their parts of the world, which only serves to exacerbate the problem. By the time us sufferers hit the middle of March experiencing what one frustrated fisherman called "a 90-day February," we can get almost psychotic - kind of like having sleep deprivation psychosis only worse. You start seeing conspiracies out to get you.

In January, for example, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries sends out its annual trout issue of Virginia Wildlife. The shack nasties are barely incipient by then, so sufferers can look at the pictures of folks happily casting fly rods on pristine mountain streams, read the stocking schedules and other information without any sense of that, 'the department is out to get them.' Then, at some point in February, sufferers may idly go to the department's website and check out what waters have been stocked the previous week at which point thoughts such as, "I bet they didn't. They're just saying that because they know it's too rotten to go out and I can't check up on them," start running thru the shack nasties sufferer's mind. Then, the March "Virginia Wildlife" comes out with an article saying that the yellow perch are running and implying the creeks are slam full of them, but it turns out they're lying, trying to ruin our faith in the Commonwealth's truthfulness.

I know. Last week, I told Ol' Jack about the yellow perch and Sunday, the only decent day we've had this year, he went up Totuskey Creek looking for them. He didn't catch anything but a buzz. Me, I couldn't even go catch that. A lady friend had hauled me off to an Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities meeting in Gloucester. (I'll bet she's in on the conspiracy, too. If she ever mentions knowing Virginia Wildlife's editor, Lee Walker, I'll know they're plotting to drive me around the bend.)

Maybe I can hold it together a few more days. The weather forecasters say it's supposed to warm up by the end of the week, and I did hear tree frogs the other evening. (At least, I thought I heard tree frogs. Did anybody else hear tree frogs?) If I did hear tree frogs, warm weather and fishing can't be but so far off can it?

Anyway, if I stay busy, maybe I can hold on. Let's see, another dozen flies tied couldn't hurt. Cleaning my rods and reels again may help. Maybe I can Scotch tape the latest American Angler together and find something in it I haven't read. Gotta quit staring at fishing stuff on eBay, though. Can't afford any more equipment, and all I got this winter hasn't stopped the shack nasties.

I know, I'll e-mail Chuck Scheerschmidt in Florida. See if the shad have reached the St. Johns River. If they have, maybe I can get a grip by following their migration up the coast over the Internet. If I'm lucky, they might get to the Rappahannock by early April, if I can hold out that long.

Maybe, I'll get lucky. Maybe the weather forecasters will be telling the truth, the weather will ameliorate by the end of the week and I can catch a fish, any fish. Once I do, I know I'll be OK. ~ CN

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