This past Saturday was opening day of trout season in New Jersey.
Our few uncontaminated streams are lined shore to shore with eager sportsmen seeking the elusive trout.
I took up fly fishing several years ago due to the simple logic that there is no point to living on a river if you don't fish. Opening day, however, is too much like taking a number at the fish counter of the supermarket, so I make my debut a week or so later.
I chose fly fishing as opposed to using worms or shiny lures because it requires skill and knowledge, and it seemed unlikely that I would ever acquire enough of either to actually have to concern myself with what to do with any fish I may catch.
Jim, the owner and proprietor of Shannon’s Fly Shop in Califon, got me started, outfitted and, after a brief but encouraging lesson, launched. He is my fishing guru, so to speak.
While fishing is relaxing and not as public a form of embarrassment as golf, it is not without its frustrations. So while standing waist deep in the nut numbing water, I have compiled a list of questions for my fly fishing guru:
How come a kid can catch a bigger trout on a jellybean than I can with my $250 collection of fuzz balls?
How is it possible to catch one’s own hat on three consecutive casts?
Why when I finally decide to pull my waders out of my crotch do three pretty girls jog by?
How can your line become hopelessly tangled while in the garage?
How can you get your cell phone to work after you’ve dropped it in the water?
What sadist decided everything has to be so small?
Why is catch-and-release a good thing when guys who arrive in pick-up trucks are doing everything short of drag netting to fill their coolers?
How can a stone get inside my wader boot?
Why are those cyclists who stopped to watch me laughing?
Aside from mastering the art of full immersion wading, there are a few other things I have worked out for myself and am happy to share them.
When another fisherman asks you how many fish you have caught, three is a good answer. Anything less sounds like you don’t know what you are doing and more would be boastful. Explain the lack of fish on your person by saying you catch and release. I usually say “a few.” I remember in an old western a townie asked the cold eyed gunfighter how many people he had shot. "A few," he said. I try to mimic his laconic worldwearyness.
If you do decide to keep the one fish you caught, hide it in your waders. It looks lame walking back to your car with one fish. Unless it is huge, then flaunt it, baby.
Here’s another tip: always take a pee before you put your waders on. If you are like me, the sound of the rushing water and the three beers you had for lunch will fire up your bladder in hurry.
Jim forgot to tell me this.