Beyond dues, assessments and other monetary considerations, there is a price to pay for membership in an organization like the Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society. They say a person can’t truly enjoy fly fishing until they have a family of their own to ignore, but ever since the first shower was installed, all those years ago, part of that price has included, at minimum, a weekend at Fish in a Barrel Pond with at least one’s spouse, maybe even the grand-kids.
Not steeped in the lore and traditions of grand old fishing clubs like this, those spouses and extended families are prone to confusion, fear and misunderstandings. It often falls to me to assuage their fears and explain how things are done around here, though I think some anglers harbor secret wishes that that everyone will be so miserable they never want to come back.
This spring I was approached, for the fifth time in as many years, by one of those disoriented spouses I find wandering around from time to time, who said, “Quill, there’s a spider in the shower.”
He was clearly distraught but there wasn’t much I could do since I’d been paid good money to put that spider in the shower in the first place.
“Why don’t you do something?” he asked as I walked him back to his camp.
Sighing, I guessed I had a few minutes to take a look. I rolled down my sleeves, buttoned tight my collar, put on my gloves, picked up a piece of stove wood and strode inside.
“You’d better stay out there,” I warned.
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” he said.
The spider knew what was coming and darted down the drain as I began pounding on the shower wall. I shook the curtain, snapping the end like a whip, and let out a holler just for effect. After another round of harmless pounding I let all fall quiet for a moment before stepping back outside.
“Yeah, I don’t think he’ll be bothering you again,” I said.
“Thanks, man. Hey, you won’t tell Mary, will you? She’ll give me heck when she comes in from fishing if she hears about this.”
I assured him it was between us but added that I couldn’t guarantee another spider wouldn’t show up and, if it did, he shouldn’t risk getting lost trying to find me. As long as he had, though, he wondered if I could explain something to him and, because he had rum, I agreed to try.
“What’s with all the nails?” he cried. “They’re everywhere!”
He showed me the tiny hammer from his tiny tool kit he’d brought along and told me how he’d broken it while trying to pull some of the nails that upset him so. I gasped and snatched the tiny broken hammer from his hand.
“No!” I scolded, shaking his hammer at him.
I quickly regained my composure when his lower lip started to quiver. Placing one hand on his shoulder, I guided him to a chair, poured a healthy ration of his rum into the closest coffee mug and drank it down. He raised an eyebrow and looked longingly at the bottle but he needed to be sober if he was going to absorb what he was about to be told, so I poured myself the rest of his rum and finished it, even though it burned like the dickens with lunch still an hour away.
When I said I hoped he understood the gravity of the situation he made to escape but I pushed him back down in his chair and proceeded to explain the nails, just as they had been explained to me. Perhaps, by setting it down here, future confusion can be avoided and it can be said that Quill Gordon always did his best to protect and preserve some of our most cherished angling traditions.
First of all, some nails have very specific purposes.
Even if a nail seems to be serving no useful purpose, that is your opinion. The person who drove that nail obviously had something in mind and it is not up to you to judge the intentions of others.
Your fellow anglers are a generous bunch and you are welcome to use someone else’s nail for any purpose during your time in camp. A variety of configurations are in place.
Some nails have seen many years of useful service, outlasting those who drove them. Those nails serve as reminders of anglers who have passed, and their memories are kept alive through the legacy of their contributions.
Closets are an unnecessary extravagance. They take up valuable space and tend to fill with spiders and mice.
Top bunk dwellers appreciate the cozy convenience of having just enough room between nails to squeeze in a pillow.
You may not alter the shape or form of someone else’s nail. They knew better than you what they were doing.
An experienced angler can hang enough clothes to last an entire week on a single stud with just two strategically placed nails. Although clothing that needs ironing is an abomination at a place such as this, if a pressing is needed before returning home, slipping one’s travel clothes between the mattresses a few days prior to departure will set very durable creases.
Creativity and resourcefulness come easily to the seasoned angler and these qualities are encouraged among all who cast lines upon these waters. Some of our more luxurious camps incorporate more than just nails into the accessorizing schemes.
Decades of experience and tradition have gone into making today’s modern fishing camps what they are. There is no reason to question the motives of our predecessors and we would do well to take advantage of their forethought and generosity, perhaps even adding our own unique contributions to camp life. You may add as many nails to the collection as you deem necessary to make your stay more pleasant, but under no circumstances — repeat, under no circumstances whatsoever — are you to remove the nail of another angler. That’s why I don’t supply hammers.
If you need to drive a nail, doorstops are provided for your convenience.
I said I hoped he felt better and that maybe I had helped him understand some of the intricacies of fishing camp protocol and tradition. He said he did not feel better and did not understand, so I patted him on the head, confiscated his tiny broken hammer and left him to thoughtfully consider what I had said.
This passing along of knowledge and wisdom is not easy and I often wonder how much of it gets through. In some cases, I may never know but things seem to work out on their own sometimes. Shortly after the above incident took place, I received the following note:
Raccoons? I don’t know any raccoons…