Fishing Hurts

Certain aspects of fly fishing confound even those familiar with the sport and no one, especially the uninitiated, needs me mucking things up trying to explain them. A quick search of the internet will reveal plenty of sources to confuse you better than I ever could but there is one important concept that is pivotal to this tale – the waving of a rod, causing a length of line to go forward and back.

The forward part of the cast is generally not very dangerous except, indirectly, to the occasional fish. The backward portion, however, tends to be somewhat more problematic. Concentrating on what is in front of him, a fisherman will sometimes lose track of where his line and the sharp, pointy hook attached to it are going, often with unintended consequences.

Ron Hogan is such a fisherman and his sloppy back cast is chronic.

Ron also has a dog, a small cocker spaniel named Buddy, who occupies himself chasing frogs and minnows at the water’s edge while Ron fishes from the dock, flies ticking off the wooden decking, clacking off benches and occasionally pinging off the guardrail along the road on the south shore of Fish in a Barrel Pond.

(Some readers may have an inkling of where this story is headed, and on this particular hot, July day the small group of people I was sitting with on the porch of the lodge, playing cribbage in the shade, had already made a number of bets regarding just such an outcome.)

There is a small pull-off along the aforementioned guardrail and it is not unusual for cars that have wandered off the main road to park there to take in the view. Fish in a Barrel Pond is really quite lovely and while the members of the Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society have never begrudged anyone a quick look around the three vehicles that parked there this day were different. Two of them, I think they were Volvos, needed new mufflers and the third appeared to have once been a Subaru, now apparently held together by the bumper stickers covering most of its primer-gray surface. The stickers seemed to indicate that the vehicle’s owner was against, among other things, large corporations, any color other than green, and meat but what set these three vehicles apart from the others that stop to admire the scenery was that six of their occupants got out carrying signs while the other six began throwing rocks into the water in an apparent effort to save the trout in our pond from Ron’s wildly flailing assault.

The mixed aromas of patchouli, marijuana and body odor drifted across the road and up onto the porch at about the same time as the words these people were shouting at Ron.

“Meat is murder!” some of them shouted.

“Fishing hurts!” cried another and I got up, out of my comfortable rocking chair, to head off any further unpleasantness, afraid that the group of men already off the porch and heading for their cottages were running to get their guns.

“Hey, now,” I said, “we don’t need any of this, you guys.”

“Murderer!” they screeched in reply.

I tried to explain that most of the people that fish our water use barbless hooks and manage to return the fish they catch unharmed but that only seemed to inflame the passion of the unwashed, unshaven group of dedicated fish savers who started calling me “a sick, twisted bastard,” “tormentor of innocent creatures” and a variety of other things I would be ashamed to actually be. While some of them screamed at me others waved their signs in my face, blowing my hat off with the breezes they created, and the rest of them continued to throw rocks at Ron, who had either been struck deaf or was doing a bang-up job of ignoring the ruckus.

One of the females in the group, the one with the seven ironic rings in her right eyebrow, stepped up to me and asked how I would like it if some creature put hooks in food and used it to catch me and drag me around. I thought about it for a moment, envisioning some sort of giant sky-hoagie or a mysteriously appearing grilled pepperoni and cheddar on sourdough flying through the air, and amused myself so much that I laughed out loud which did nothing to cool the heat they were prepared to apply.

Rocks were coming closer and closer to Ron, who continued banging flies into the objects behind him, and as I moved to put myself between Ron and the pebble flingers I found my way blocked by one of their signs. On the sign was a doctored photo of an adorable Labrador retriever with big, sad, puppy-dog eyes and a large hook pulling one lip out to the side. Big, block lettering beneath the picture asked the question, “You wouldn’t do this to a dog so why do it to a fish?” and, evidently unsure of my ability to read, several of my new, well-intentioned friends pointed at the words and recited them out loud for me.

I was looking for a way to end this uncomfortable and unnecessary situation as quickly as possible — for the sake of all involved — but coming up empty when one of the headlights on the car with the bumper stickers exploded. A sharp report echoed off the far shore and the saviors of the fishes scrambled for cover with such speed I was convinced they must have trained and drilled for such an occurrence. Ron Hogan heard the sound of the shot, too, though his reaction wasn’t much more than a slight pause in his back cast which allowed his line to drop a bit more than usual, a very unfortunate thing because Buddy the dog also heard the shot and froze, directly in line with the result of Ron’s sloppy technique.

The leader and tippet on Ron’s line had just enough length and force to drape over the far side of Buddy’s neck, wrap around underneath and catch the business end of Ron’s #12 Royal Wulff on the top of Buddy’s near-side ear. Ron brought his cast forward, the hook dug in and Buddy gave a startled yelp, setting off one of those things where many individual actions take place all at once, and before Ron could make the connection between the resistance he felt and the howling of his dog he brought his rod forward again, with even more authority, which ensured a very firm hook set.

While Ron was hooking his dog I was taking the Lord’s name in vain, shouting at the group of men approaching with pistols and, at the same time, encouraging the merry band of world savers to drop their signs and get the hell out of there as soon as possible. Things were getting noisy, confused and more dangerous by the second. In what seemed like a single instant, the twelve young, smelly protesters piled into their cars and started the engines, another shot rang out, striking a nearby oak tree, and Buddy took off running in my direction making a noise that sounded like a cross between nails on a blackboard and a steam whistle. Gravel flew as tires spun in reverse and Buddy streaked by, trailing ninety feet of bright green line like a screeching comet. The men with guns were yelling. Ron Hogan was yelling. The young people in the cars were yelling and so was I. Utter confusion reigned.

Buddy was past the oak tree and so was most of Ron’s line when the car that looked like a Subaru drove over the trailing end, pinning it down and causing Buddy to change course. All the way around the tree he went, again and again, in an ever shrinking orbit, shrieking the whole time. As the cars pulled away, while Buddy completed the last of his blood-curdling circuits around the tree, Ron and the other men finally ceased their shouting but I did not. Nor did Buddy. With the ear-splitting screams of a wounded cocker spaniel resounding throughout the valley I ran after the cars, waving the sign that asked why we don’t fish for dogs and shouting at the top of my lungs, “Because they make too much damn noise!”

Categories: +The Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society, Fly Fishing, Humor | Tags: , , , | 17 Comments

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17 thoughts on “Fishing Hurts

  1. Poor Buddy! Kind of makes me feel guilty about laughing myself sick.


  3. Those broccoli murderers sure learned a thing or two, but you might want to make sure they get the point by writing it on a sign and yelling it at them.

    Did y’all eat Buddy, or throw him back?

  4. jojovtx1800

    I’m probably dumb enough to try and bite the “giant sky-hoagie”.

    I’d be easily caught, if the animals ever do get that smart.


  5. “Being foul-hooked in a non-vital part,” Buddy was required by the rules of the Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society “to be released in order to provide sport for future anglers.”

  6. Sister Scribonia Invidiosa of the Headspasm League

    I’ll have to come back and read this when I gotz some time. I just wanted to say: The orange cap is back!

    and Merry Christmas…

  7. Oh, hell! I just snorted like a freaking fool!

  8. Auntiesmedley

    Sigh. Some people, well intentioned as they may be, just give a bad name to environmentalism! I’m afraid they deserved what they got, considering that the Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society is a private club.

    Poor Buddy, thought, the innocent victim of the whole situation! I hope the hook was properly extracted and Ron learns better casting technique.

  9. Ciekawy blog, dodalem go do ulubionych, bede tu napewno wpadal czesciej

  10. Great story! I think I would rise for the pizza fly. Keep writing.

  11. Rob

    Vegitarian is an Indian word. It means bad hunter. Hi Ken, love the story.

  12. Pingback: Brilliant Story! « Paul's Angling Journal

  13. A friend of mine’s dog ate his fly once. I never understood what possessed him to do such a thing. Required a vet trip and all.

    Great story (or should I say parable), Quill.

  14. Woolybugah

    Poor Dog! Hopefully Ron has learned the error of a dropped back cast. I think VT should have a law modled after one in TX which says if you catch a guy in bed with your wife you can shoot him and it will be ruled justifable homicide. In VT it would be if someone interrups a man fishing….
    Great story’re on a roll man!!!

  15. Bob Hartnett

    What’s the strangest thing you ever hooked on your backcast? Mine was a bat in full flight.Honest.I had it hooked in the wing . I managed to get him to the ground & release him by breaking the leader up close.After which,off he went.

    • I’ve had bats grab flies off the water during a Hex hatch but never hooked one in the air. I’ve put backcasts into shrubs and once put one 20 feet up into a hemlock (don’t ask) but the strangest thing I ever hooked on my backcast? Myself.

  16. howard

    combat fly fishing you gotta love it.

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