Lighter Side

What is life if there is not laughter? Welcome to the lighter side of flyfishing! We welcome your stories here!
December 24th, 2001

How To Avoid Splits
Ed Zern

By Ed Zern

Once there were a couple of fishermen, one elderly and the other middle-aged, standing on a bridge peering into river 50 feet below. Suddenly a young man rushed out onto the bridge, took off his coat and climbed up onto the railing. "What's going on, bub?" asked the elderly angler.

"I'll tell you what's going on," said the young man bitterly. "I'm about to jump into the river and end it all, that's what's going on."

"My goodness," said the elderly angler, "why would you want to do that?"

"I'll tell you why, pop," said the young man. "For years my girl used to go fishing with me, and she was crazy about it. She even put her own worms on the hook. So last winter we got married - and now the season's open, and she says she hates fishing and can't stand worms. She says I got to give up fishing entirely and take up bowling, so we can have fun together. So stand aside, gents - I'm going to jump!"

"Hold it just a minute, son," said the elderly angler. "Let's not be hasty. I think your bride has a valid point. After all, fishing is pretty much a waste of time and a constant source of frustration and irritation. It's a wrecker of hopes and dreams. When I was your age I was on the verge of a brilliant career as a paleontologist, but I frittered away so much time and energy on trout streams and bass ponds that I never got anywhere. My good, sweet wife, may she rest in peace, tried to warn me, but I wouldn't listen. All I could think of was fishing, and after years of shameful neglect she died of a broken heart. Today my children shun and despise me, and I can't say I blame them."

While the elderly angler was wiping a tear from his eye, the young man got down off the railing and said, "Gosh, pop, maybe you've got a point. But doggonit, I enjoy fishing. What could be as great a thrill as catching a whopping big smallmouth bass or a grandaddy walleyed pike?"

"Son," said the elderly angler. "I'll tell you what can be an even greater thrill! It's seeing that trusty old bowling ball take a nifty hook right into the 1-3 pocket, and watching all ten of those maples go flying! It's seeing delight in your lovely wife's eyes when she scores a spare, God bless her! It's being together with her every Tuesday night and Saturday afternoon, sharing the splits and strikes alike as you go through life hand in hand!

"Also," said the elderly angler, "it's seeing your score improve every time you visit the alleys, and knowing you're the master of your own destiny, and not at the mercy of some stupid fish or inconsiderate weatherman. It's feeling your body grow stronger with the healthful exercise of rolling that splendid sphere down those gleaming boards, and knowing you won't ever be crippled up with rheumatism and arthritis and God knows what at all from years of falling into cold, damp trout streams. It's not having to worry about leaky waders and knotty leaders and sand in your reel. It's thumbing your nose at the population explosion - after all, there'll still be room to build more bowling alleys even when the last rivers and lakes are clogged with silt and waterskiers. Believe me, son, your wife knows best, and you should thank her and bless her for steering you away from a dismal, dead-end existence."

"Well," said the young man, "maybe I was being hasty. You really think I should give bowling a try?"

"Of course you should!" cried the elderly angler. "You'll love it! Now hurry on home and give that little woman a great big smooch and tell her you're on your way to get fitted for a pair of bowling shoes. Toodle-oo!"

When the young man had hurried off, the middle-aged angler said, "Okay, Harry, what's the big idea? You know you never had a career as a paleontologist. Hell, you just barely scraped through eighth grade. And what's this about a wife and children - you've never even looked at a woman unless she was wearing some kind of fur you figured you might pinch for fly-tying. And the only thing you despise more than bowling is toe-dancing. Right?"

The Best of Ed Zern

"Right, stupid," said the elderly angler, "but there's a brown trout as long as your leg lying right below us, alongside that old wagon wheel. If that poor schnook had jumped he'd have scared it into the next county, and I figure to try for it this evening."

"Oh," said said the middle-aged angler. "Well, there's no trout there now - that goof standing there on the rail must have scared it."

"By George, you're right," said the elderly angler, peering into the water. "And to think I told that poor kid a pack of lies - what a sinful, cynical, selfish thing to do! But it's not too late to make amends. Let's go!"

"Yes indeed," said the middle-aged angler, and so they ran after the young man, dragged him back to the bridge, and flung him into the river. ~ Ed Zern

Credits: From The Best of Ed Zern published by The Lyons Press.

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