Lighter Side

What is life if there is not laughter? Welcome to the lighter side of flyfishing! We welcome your stories here!
November 6th, 2000

Having Manners Is Not Elitism,
It's Just Chosing Not To Be A Fungus-Head

By Ol' Red, Aurora, Colorado, USA

Picture this if you will: It's Saturday and you're standing in this perfect little stream. Birds are chirping, but even they decide to mute their tones because it's just that kind of gentility wandering about that forces the better part of discretion, even in a bird. The stream is just noisy enough to block out errant traffic sounds. You can see someone throwing line every so often, and should they come close enough, the grudging sounds of, "Having any luck? Me neither. Nice day for it though," are hollered before these few anglers pass each other like ships merry-bent on their own assignments. All falls silent once again. Well, at least as silent as it gets out in Nature's face. There is a sudden dead calm in one little pool you've been casting at for a half hour. You know, the one right under that overhanging tree branch? The one place where you know those damned trout are hiding, just waiting for the precise angle, speed and plop of just the right bug?

And then the world shatters in a cataclysm of water heaving to the sky and the heavy, feel-it-in-your-gut sound of "THUUUUHWHOOOONK!"

Suddenly, the fish are hauling tail up the river faster than you. You're only running uphill because you were caught in a moment of total and perfect fugue state where you were one with all things and time, space and lack of rising fish were melded together into perfect harmony when the whole metaphysical perfection caved in on you without warning. The fish are hauling tail because they don't think metaphysically. They're just thinking, "what in the hell was that and how far behind us is it now?!"

With that begins my introduction to you of, 'The Family That Plays Together.'

Actually, I have a whole list of fungus-heads, but for now, I'll start with these puppies because, out of all the denizens that could possibly screw up a really good day of fishing, these are, at the moment, at the top of my list.

You know them already. I know you do. We all do! The family usually consists of Father Dolt, Mother Dolt, and Little Dolt-In-Training. (The number of the latter may vary here, usually between 1 and 3, unless it's a family reunion, and then there's just too many to count.) Oh, and let us not leave out Fido Dolt, the family dog.

These are people (I'll call them people because you wouldn't like what I normally call them, unless you're a Marine or former Marine who was at one point a Drill Instructor) whose idea of "wilderness" is any place which does not have a K-Mart every half mile. Their family hobbies always include anything that has air conditioned comfort, testing parental skills by attempting to find exactly the right toy to hush the squalling, screaming, kicking child throwing a tantrum in public, and occasionally deciding to "rough it" by packing the Family 'Deathmobile' with family, dog and grub and heading into the mountains to find a stream in which to play.

I'll speak the truth here. I have no problem with family outings. In fact, people should practice them more often, as it tends to leave the K-Marts bereft of squalling, public tantrum throwing children, which makes enforced shopping much nicer for me. It's the way in which they practice these outings that makes me want to go buy a hunting license and practice saying the word "Ooops!" with utter sincerity.

Before I get to the rules of 'Fungus-Head Behavior In, On or Near a River,' here's a quick test to tell if you are in fact, a Fungus-Head:

  • 1. Are you wearing waders?

  • 2. Are you carrying a non-spinning rod & reel?

  • 3. Did you have to buy special boots because tennis shoes in rivers only lead to snapped bodily parts?

  • 4. Do you know what the term "watch your backcast!" means?

  • 5. When someone around you yells "The hatch is on!" do you peer at the water instead of looking up into the trees to see the cute little birdies catch their first peep of sunlight?

If you answered "no" to all these, you are a Fungus-Head. So's your family. If you answered yes to number 5, you're lying too. You just think that five questions in a row that have the same answer is somehow unnatural.

Now that that's established, here are the Rules:

1. No matter how much you want to throw errant rocks back into the river, don't! Nature wants them dry for her own personal reasons, and that's that. Now put that rock down - GENTLY!-and let your kids stare at the water rushing past them.

2. Yes, you and your fellow fungi may in fact soak your feet in the river. You may even move your legs about a bit. However, you may not have stupid contests about who can kick up the most water or who can kick it higher.

3. If there are people about (by "people" I mean real people in silly hats with poles standing crotch-deep in a river glaring at you and your satanic, rock-hurling spawn) practice what some people like to think of as "graciousness." A little cellular memory recall of your family's hunting days would help too. Think like the mighty hunter. If you sit still for two minutes and watch and decide "these people are being very quiet. They are moving through the water while trying to make as little sound as possible. Oh, look! They're throwing line with a bug out there and staring intently at that dark splotch of water," then you should assume they're being sneaky and quiet for a damn good reason. Graciousness would dictate that your brain take all this in, accept it, and quietly, you and your family would back away and head to other parts of the river (always downstream) where there are no others doing things like this. Unless you want to openly admit to being a Fungus-Head, and then you and your spawn will jump into the river and scream, "Whatchall doin' up there, huh?"

4. Anyone screaming the above mentioned stupidity at a fly angler, throwing rocks into a river, throwing children into a river, throwing a stick or chewtoy into a river to get a stupid dog to retrieve it will pay the penalty. The penalty has no set definitions, it's just whatever the guy or gal you just majorly ticked off decides, and can include anything from hurling verbal insults to rocks.

Frankly, we're through being nice to incredibly stupid people who believe that their "rights" to do anything anywhere they please without one thought to someone else's rights outweighs everyone else's rights to behave with dignity and grace while still having a really decent time. Your rights are no more important than anyone else's. Read that again. Now, call your lawyer and have him or her explain the concept to you.

5. You may:

    1) dangle feet in the river,
    2) play with your dog (over there),
    3) chat with your kids about how pretty things are, what kind of bug that is, why the water is so cold, and what are those people in the funny pants doing,
    4) having lunch with said family, but up by the car or at least 10 feet away from the river because you'd just dump sandwich parts and soda cans into that lovely river without the slightest pang of the injustice you are doing to the pristine beauty the rest of us non-Fungus-Heads work our butts off to ensure for our kids, families and dogs.

    6. You may not:

    1) use the river as your wilderness garbage disposal,
    2) talk to anyone standing in the river unless they speak to you first,
    3) wave things or sing to attract the attentions of anyone in the river,
    4) throw tantrums, rocks, cans or dogs at anyone or anything.

Of course, we all know you can tell a Fungus-Head the rules, explain them to one in great detail, and perhaps, in extreme cases, sic a lawyer on em. But, as a species higher on the evolutionary scale than say, a Fungus-Head, flyanglers should resort to what they know best: Stalking and observing their prey, figuring out what they'll go for, and tossing that at em.

My favorite was finding the dead St. Bernard carcass about two feet from one of my favorite fishing spots when a family of Dolts arrived. The smell did not drive them away. The rigor mortis only fascinated them. Daddy and Mommy took their little doltish crew off to harass the river and everyone in it while smiling angelically at each other over how perfect their lives and children were. When the little girl fairly danced up to me and started barraging me with questions about what I was doing, why I was wearing such a funny hat, how come I didn't have rubber pants like the other guys and the constant, "Why ya doin' that, huh?" I came to a decision. Very cautiously, I peered around, my steely eyes closed to slits that a Vietnam Vet would find fascinating. I waved my hand for her silence while squatting down further into the river. And I did it very slowly. She fell into utter silence.

"See that dog up there?" I nodded my head in the general direction of the carcass. She nodded silently, her mouth a tight "O" of anticipation. "Bear ain't done with him yet," I whispered trying to do my best Mack Bolan/Mighty Huntress imitation.

When I turned around, she was gone in a trail of smoke and was shouting something to mommy and daddy, who in turn looked my way, saw my "looking for the bear" squat, and pretty much decided that they'd had just about enough of nature for that day, and frankly their chances at an amusement park would be a much happier and safer bet.

It ain't that you have to be impolite all the time. You just have to assess your prey and know where to hit. ~ Ol' Red

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