Tale End: Expert Advice - The Fisherman

Tale End: Expert Advice

The author (middle) in between the late Nick Karas (far) and former Outdoor Life editor Vin Sparano (near) during an “expert advice” outing with the old New York Metropolitan Outdoor Press Association.

According to last year’s fishing diary, this is what I learned – yesterday is when the fish bite best; today is where you should have been yesterday; and tomorrow will be a former yesterday.  The morale being, go fishing tomorrow; you can’t miss.

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I was recalling the above silliness and some “back in the day” fishing trips I took with my late dad.  We took a trip to Ontario a long time gone for the opening of the walleye season when it can either be 90 degrees or snowing.  This was way back in the day, BC (before computers) when I was hunched over a portable typewriter in a shoreline cabin hammering out an advance column that I would hustle off to the front office shack to mail back to my newspaper.  My father was looking over my shoulder as I pounded the keys.   I needed more stress on deadline.

He started laughing, the low rumble turned into an outright guffaw (who guffaws anymore?) until he downright gagged, wiped his glasses and collapsed into a camp chair, spilling his beer in the process.  “What’s so damn funny?” I asked, annoyed and trying to concentrate on the paper in the typewriter where words were, slowly, appearing.

“You have to have confidence in your lure,” he said, referring to my last sentence before the rumble came again. He’d taken to his cot and given himself pounding the pillow in a series of hee-haws that no doubt woke up the local loon population. “Confidence in your lure for Pete’s sake, where do you writers get this stuff?”

“We make it up,” I said and added “what’s wrong with that? You should have confidence in whatever you’re heaving in hopes of catching fish.”  My old man, suddenly serious, replied: “Anybody who tosses the same lure for three hours without a bite and still professes ‘confidence’ in the thing is a damn fool.”

I said nearly every outdoor writer, including those of national fame, has said the same thing regarding confidence (not the “damn fool” part).  Dad said it was a load of “nonsense” and those literary luminaries should know better.  It was then when I exposed the man behind the curtain and said, “where did you ever get the idea that outdoor writers are ‘experts’ about anything?”

I offered myself as an example of being outfished by 10-year-olds, missed deer at 30 yards, gotten lost on a one-way road and usually forget my lunch.  “You limited out on walleye this morning,” he said as an off-handed compliment to my humble-pie routine. “A monkey could have caught fish today,” I said. “They were biting and I was lucky.”

“I only caught one,” dad said softly, the “Oh, pity me” routine was coming up.  “Look,” I said softening the blow, “I’ve been out with a guy who wrote a book on fishing knots. A couple of weeks ago I watched him lose a big trout because his knot became undone.”

“And remember when I worked for the big-time magazine,” I continued, “when I went fishing with two of its hot-shot editors, one who has been saltwater fishing since Noah was looking around for a boat builder? Experts, right?”  We caught squat on the trip of course; the captain said it was the worst day in the history of cod fishing.  “We can’t understand it,” the famous editors said.

I don’t understand a lot of this outdoor stuff either, mainly because we’re dealing with wild things that do what they want.

And they will, every time.


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