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
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