Funny Lines & Fishy Advice

Excerpts From Wit & Wisdom of Fishing

by Louis Bignami et al

"All good fishermen stay young until they die, for fishing is the only dream of youth that doth not grow stale with age."
- J.W. Muller

My Mentor

I was 14 when I started wielding a fly rod, and did fairly well that first summer. However, when fall weather chilled the river my expertise plummeted with the mercury, and I reverted to using worms. I was thus engaged when "Old Will appeared. He was only in his late fifties, but they had been hard, hell-raising years interrupted by two wars. When he saw the worm on my hook I got a proper dressing down, then he demonstrated that trout would, indeed, still take flies.

He was graceful, accurate caster with river smarts most anglers could only dream of attaining. Within seconds a rainbow danced across the rapids. After releasing two more fish he waded ashore, then from a small enameled box plucked a fly he identified only as a "brown bug." It had a spindly, brown body, with long, skimpy hackles. "When ya git home," he growled, "git yerself some gunny sack and some brown feathers outta yer pillow, and make yer own."

He pointed to a rock in the river. "Git downstream from where ya figger the fish is layin', then study yer water upstream. Ya gotta chuck yer fly in jest the right spot, so's it'll wash down like a real bug. Keep yer line slack, 'cause if the fly drags, the trout knows it ain't the Real McCoy. If yer line looks like it's gonna drag, flip it upstream a bit. Now chuck that fly up above that rock and let it come back on a slack line like I told ya. When a fish grabs it, the line'll give a little twitch - and ya hit jest like a rattlesnake bitin' a baby bunny. But ya gotta pay attention or ya won't see nuthin'."

I cast where Old Will had pointed, then without seeing the fish hit or setting the hook, I was promptly into a plump rainbow.

"By God, boy, ya learn fast!" crowed my mentor. "Always knew I missed my callin' - I shoulda bin a teacher."

Old Will has long since passed on; however, whenever using nymphs I first "read" the water, then pick the best position from which to cast. An if I neglect mending the line, I hear a gravel voice growl, "Flip that line up and git some slack in 'er. Ya fly fishin' or tryin' ta snag 'em?" Lesson properly taught are never forgotten, so maybe Old Will really did miss his calling.

"No Human being, however great, or powerful, was ever so free as a fish."
- John Ruskin, The Two Paths

"It is the birds and other creatures peculiar to the water that render fly-fishing so pleasant; were they all destroyed, and nothing left by the mere fish, one might as well stand and fish in a stone cattle-trough."
- Richard Jefferies, The Life of Fields

"The artificial breeding of domestic fish... is apparently destined to occupy an extremely conspicuous place in the history of man's efforts tom compensate his prodigal waste of the gifts of nature"
- George Perkins Marsh