Lighter Side

What is life if there is not laughter? Welcome to the lighter side of flyfishing! We welcome your stories here!
April 3rd, 2000

Fly Fishing the Great Indoors

by Ken Hackler, Crystal Lake, IL

As a group, anglers tend to be pretty serious about their sport, even when the snow is knee deep. The type of involvement often changes with the seasons though. For many, winter is the time of year when fishing becomes an armchair or barstool sport, when Outdoorsmen become Indoorsmen. Winter is story season, and reality takes a break while imagination runs amok.

Far less expensive than real fishing, winter fishing requires no travel, no special equipment, and no license. It happens even in big cities where the fishing is lousy, such as Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York, since fish stories actually seem to thrive where there are more buildings, concrete, and asphalt. The beauty is that people who don't even fish, and who think flies are just bugs you swat on the window, get to talk about the monster that 'got away.'

Of course, every 'missed' trout was a potential trophy. No one admits to losing a small fish. Even if they did, the story would be modified (but never abbreviated) like some made-for-TV movie: "Parts of this account have been fictionalized, but were inspired by actual events." This really means the first few words of the story are generally true, such as "I went fishing one day." The rest is pure Hollywood.

State Fish & Game Departments track the number of big game animals taken by hunters each year, providing useful statistics to wildlife managers. They use the data to determine how large the herds are and how many licenses to issue the following year. But nobody tracks the number of trophy fish that get away each year, a far more important number to me.

I want them to start tracking and recording missed fish - by river, lake, type of fish, and the fly or lure they supposedly hit on. Supported by government documentation, I would gain credibility overnight. Nobody could doubt my stories if hundreds of ten-pound trout had already gotten away in that stretch of the river. From a conservation point of view, it's better than catch-and-release. This is strictly 'nothing caught-nothing to release.'

Stores would sell trophy mounts for the huge fish that weren't caught. The engraved brass plate would show the type of fish, date, and location where it got away. Heck, I may have one made up for myself for all the monsters I've already lost over the years.

Of course, the government would step in to regulate any new category of fishing. In a few years, middle-aged men in flannel shirts would be lobbying for unrestricted seasons on imaginary fish. Fish & Game would begin limiting daydreams, causing forlorn men in ratty old vests to sit in bars (native habitat of 'the ones that got away'), unable to pursue their quarry. Posing as bouncers, undercover Fish & Game Officers would stake out seedy nightclubs to catch poachers.

In addition to dreaming and telling stories, winter is also the time of year when most anglers repair old equipment, buy new equipment, and plan the first big trip of the season to come. I'll bet more money is spent on fishing equipment during the winter than any other time, since most people are limited to shopping, either at their local sporting goods stores, through catalogs, from magazines, or the internet.

As for magazines, I've studied what's out there and I know what sells. The covers always show smiling people catching fish on bright sunny days, even if it's the January issue. Magazine editors save their best summer pictures just for winter - mostly to rub it in I think.

You know people are serious about their hobby when the people shown in their magazines are not 20 year old women in bikinis, but rather men and women who might be anywhere from 20 to 70. They don't wear makeup, no one fusses over their hair or tries to hide the gray, and some even have (dare I say it?) a few wrinkles. To top it all off, instead of bikinis they are normally wearing rubber pants up to their armpits. Move over Christie Brinkley!

Put a bikini babe on the cover of a fishing magazine and people will scream bloody murder because the model detracts from the vest and hip waders, even if that's all she's wearing.

Dave Barry once said there is a very fine line between hobbies and mental illness, and I'm sure he had fishing in mind when he wrote that.

That about does it for me tonight. I'm off to check out the centerfold in this month's issue of Fly Fishing The Great Indoors. It's a great new inflatable chest pack I may want to order. Later I'm going down to swap a few fish stories with the guys over a beer.

As long as the bouncer leaves us alone. ~ Ken Hackler

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