The thing about opening a can of worms is that you can never fit back in the number of worms that came out. They wiggle and they wriggle, spreading slime and bedding all around and for some reason, even though it’s just a bunch of worms, most people do not have generally favorable reactions to such occurrences. Somehow, opening a can of worms has been perceived as something so traumatic that we dare not do it and the phrase has found its way into every day use.
Internet discussion of politics? Can of worms. Ask the members of the Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society what color to paint our oldest cabin, the Parmacheene Belle? Can of worms. Suggest an outright ban on the use of worms at Fish in a Barrel Pond? There’s a real can of worms for you.
Now, I do not personally know anyone who would resort to such a thing but I suppose I can perhaps understand how an angler, especially one who is trolling when things are slow, might think about giving in to the temptation of tipping his fly with a teensy bit of garden hackle, just enough to give the fish ideas but only until things pick up, you know. Why suffer, trying to catch fish on a fly when everyone knows a ten year-old kid with a pocketful of worms will outfish a grown man using a fly most every time.
Worms are as easy to find these days as propane, donuts and cash, but what was a fellow to do back in the old days, before refrigeration and credit card reading technologies?
The answer to that is, he gathered them himself, like a man.
For only a buck, a bank fisherman could fix himself up with the “Little Chum” pole sitter, a rod holder slash worm digger slash fish scaler, one of fishing’s first multi-purpose tools. But Mister, why bother with all that hard labor?
You just know that in 1947, the $1 electric MAGIC WORM WANDS were sturdy (and safe). But what if you had a worm emergency away from home, in place without a handy electrical outlet?
What a silly worry.
But, you know, lugging a generator around just to get some worms seems like as much work as diggin’ ’em. If only there was a way to better living through chemistry.
But you know what? Even electrocution and poisoning lost their luster as methods for gathering worms. It wasn’t long before worms joined the multitude of backyard and garage based enterprises springing up across the land. Chinchillas and hamsters ran their course and old bath tubs replaced cages as worm farming took its legitimate place in American agricultural history.
By the late ’80s the Classifieds section of Field & Stream was crawling with worm-related ads.
In this pair of ads, the top one was placed by Hugh Carter, a Georgia state legislator, businessman and cousin of President Jimmy Carter. The bottom one is interesting because it features a gray worm that needs no refrigeration, the Vigorous Georgia Jumper!
The main sponsor of Dr. Johnny Fever’s radio program on the old WKRP in Cincinnati TV show was, “Red Wigglers, the Cadillac of worms!”
Just in case you ever consider looking for worms to replace that fly, and no worm vending machines can be found, first of all you should seriously consider seeking professional help; failing that, perhaps there are some pointers to be found in this video of actual worm grunters at work: