Sunday, June 1, 2014

the tackle shop

I was recently in a well-known tackle shop in another town, which shall remain nameless, where I overheard a conversation between customer and salesman. The customer was new to town, about to start a new job. He wanted to spend the weekend fishing and was picking the man's brain for local information. A common enough scene. The customer was purchasing supplies for spinning gear. I'm not sure of the baits, but he had some light monofilament and a few other terminal things in his basket. The salesman was incredulous that someone should be buying such things while asking about trout streams. He pushed the shopper hard about using spinning tackle and unabashedly denounced the customer. To provide some form of an answer to the customer he described one particular stream and acknowledged that perhaps spinning techniques would work, but that fly gear would be superior. He described another famous Montana water with eloquence akin to Mark Twain's, but then shriveled his nose and said something about how spinning gear would not be effective. He rubbed harder and said that it was truly a fly fisherman's paradise. He was relentless and asked if the customer has ever fly fished. The customer said that he had three times in his life, and had been in the trees and the back of his head more than in the water. Eventually he cut the salesman off and said "Look man, I'm in town for the weekend before I start my new job and would just like to wet a line." The salesman truncated whatever he was about to say and settled on a stream, pronouncing it to be the one that would likely suit him best. The customer thanked him politely and started to walk away. The salesman called after him and said "You really need to see the light and come over here, away from the dark side. First time you catch a fish on a fly you'll be hooked! You'd rather catch one on a fly rod than fifty on your spinning gear...!" His voiced trailed off as the customer slipped away into another section of the store.

What a prick.

I had my hands full trying to herd my kids toward the door to meet a time frame to be somewhere else, but I would have liked nothing more than to have sought that customer out and given him the pointers he was looking for. I would have also put in a few good words about fly fishing as something he might like to try someday and made an effort to save the sport some face, for I'm sure that customer walked out of that store with no desire whatsoever to pick up a fly rod anytime soon - unless he felt like he was going to "have to" in order to be accepted into his new town. And the last thing he needs is to be shamed into it.

The arrogance of that salesman chaps my hide. But the mentality he displayed is far too common. It was like a radical left-wing liberal robotically spouting off about his cause with no understanding of the topic as a whole.  Any style of fishing can be done mindlessly and without skill. Fly fishing too. It doesn't take much effort to perform a basic cast - the skill is in the awareness of the surroundings, the presentation, and management of the cast once it's on the water. Same is true of any number of properly presented baits with spinning gear. Mindless casts with any gear catch fish now and then, but the guy who picks the water and all its subtle structures apart with whatever gear happens to be in his hand - using whatever the proper mix of rod length, action, line weight, lure weight, pattern, etc happens to be - now that's skill. Regardless of the gear.

I've read descriptions of services on guides' websites that recommend against spinning gear, saying that it only occasionally works on the streams they fish. It's true that when two members of the same party are fishing by different methods that a buddy system approach to the stream will be frustrating, and that is not conducive to a smoothly guided trip. But then the descriptions will go on to say something like "none of our staff use those methods anyway."  I can just hear the slight snarl as whoever typed the words lingered on the word "those."

I have a friend who likes to say that fly fishing is the best thing that ever happened to fishing - it pumps a bunch of money into the industry but virtually leaves the water untouched. As much as I love to fly fish, I tend to agree. Whoever dreamed up fly fishing was no doubt trying to figure out a way to get a weightless bait to cast. That's still where fly fishing excels in my mind. To me, that's it's purpose. Casting an otherwise uncastable bait. Presenting an otherwise unpresentable lure.  I love to float a dry fly. I like to employ nymphs. I really get into swinging a streamer. And then, I love to swing a plug. And I get an absolute kick out of bouncing jigs. On rare occasions I might toss a bait rig, but in recent years I mostly find myself doing that on steelhead water - why? Because I get a kick out of it. I love the drift. I have been known to tip a beadhead nymph with a wax worm now and again in my past. Thing is, I LOVE to fish. Love it. I'm not going to steer a guy one way or the other. I'm not going to denounce someone for choosing a method and sticking exclusively with it - unless they do so with such arrogance as to belittle the other, such as was demonstrated by the salesman I witnessed earlier. A man I would have fired on the spot had I owned the store.

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