I am a fly-fishing snob.
Correct that, I’m a former fly-fishing snob. This week, I was inspired by outdoors editor Rich Landers’ excellent coverage of the opening day of fishing season to return to my childhood spin-casting roots.
Why be a fishing purist? Why turn up my nose at worms and lures? Why don’t I go hit some of our fine lowland lakes and bring home a nice mess of hatchery trout for dinner?
So I ran out and immediately purchased an Ugly Stik. That’s a brand of spinning rod – the kind I formerly disdained.
I was so excited about my new Ugly Stik, I could barely sleep Monday night. On Tuesday, I spent my lunch hour taking the North Division bus to White Elephant to buy some fishing tackle.
I roamed the aisles and picked up some Mepps spinners, a Rooster Tail, a crawfish imitation, a Wedding Ring and something called a Husky Jerk. All were bristling with treble-hooks. All were the sort of metal-and-plastic fishing hardware that makes a fly fisherman queasy.
That night, sorting all of these lures, I had my first misgivings. This stuff was all so big, so loud, so … clanking. Could I, a man who stalks the wily cutthroat with a tiny gnat, really be proposing to use a Husky Jerk on the end of an Ugly Stik?
“Hell, yeah,” I said to myself. “These things are gonna kick some trout butt tomorrow morning.”
At 6 a.m. I jumped up and drove off to Fish Lake, near Cheney, to get in a couple of hours of fishing before work. I tied on one of those Mepps spinners, tossed it out there, set it in motion and waited for the strike.
And waited. And waited. The temperature was 39 degrees. The wind was howling at 30 miles per hour. I was the only fool out on the lake.
My line got tangled. I snagged something on the bottom. I was shivering uncontrollably. I tripped on an old beer can.
I gave up, went to work, marched right over to Rich Landers and, still shivering, told him my pathetic story.
“I’m beginning to detect a pattern in your fishing trips,” said Landers.
“Not catching fish,” I said.
“No, contracting hypothermia,” he said. “But also that part about not catching fish.”
Then I started to complain to him about Fish Lake. Where were all of those thousands of hatchery trout?
“Not in Fish Lake,” he said.
“You told me to go to Fish Lake! You said they dumped millions of trout in it the last couple weeks!”
“I didn’t say Fish Lake,” Landers said, grinning. “I said, Fishtrap Lake.”
OK, so I went to the wrong lake. Still, I didn’t think that Landers was being very nurturing toward a fellow fisherman. (By the way, this is probably the first time the words “nurturing” and “fisherman” have ever appeared in the same sentence.)
After some whining, he took pity on me. He told me to go to Fishtrap Lake or Williams Lake, which really had been stocked with thousands of trout. He even helpfully printed out a graphic he had once created, showing the best way to rig a line for trout.
“Hey, wait,” I said. “This graphic is for kindergartners.”
“I know,” he said.
The technique involved putting both a worm and a marshmallow on a hook and suspending it just above the bottom. That night, I went out in the garden and dug some worms. Then I bought some Jet-Puffed marshmallows. This is how low I had sunk.
On Friday, I got up early and headed to Williams Lake. Conditions were much better. It was 42 degrees and it was only drizzling a little. I paid $5 for the privilege of using the resort’s fishing dock.
There was only one other guy out there. I asked how he was doing and he said, “I got one a while back.”
My heart leapt. Then he added, “But it’s kinda slowed down now.”
Yeah, kinda slowed down. I tossed that worm and that marshmallow out there time after time. Two hours later I trudged back to the car.
My fishing pattern was intact. Hypothermia, but no fish.
Landers, I’m sure, will be very nurturing when I tell him about this. Meanwhile, I have not given up on bait- and spinner-fishing. I used to look down on it, because, for one thing, it looked too easy. Not sporting enough.
Was I ever wrong. It’s way harder than fly-fishing.
In fact, I make this challenge to my fellow fly fishers: You try dealing with a soggy marshmallow.
It tends to fall off. I plan to keep practicing until I master it. I spent too much money on this Ugly Stik to stop now.