Saturday, November 26, 2011

15 things you only do once - published Oct 2011

15 things you only do once
Story by Trevor Shpeley
Illustrations by Marie Murphy

Fishing is a sport of repetition. We cast, cast and cast again. By repeating ourselves we become skilled and wise in the ways of the water. There are some things however that you only want to do once if at all. Here are 15 of them.

1 - Forget to replace the drain plug in a boat before launching
A lot of boats come with drain plugs in the transom which are removed when the boat is on a trailer to get rid of any accumulated water. When you arrive at the boat launch the first thing you do is secure the plug before you back down the ramp. That's the theory anyway. If you are like me and you spend 20 minutes every single day searching for your car keys and have left children in shopping carts at the mall then this simple task of remembrance can be a hit or miss affair.

The problem is compounded with the addition of a wife who has been placed in the boat before launching. Trying to explain to a panicked partner about the location and mechanics of a drain plug as she slowly sinks into the shipping lanes is hardly ever the start of an awesome day on the water.

There are plenty of commercial solutions like long colorful ribbons and tethers, use one or at least if you choose not to, don't think poorly of me as I stand on the shore laughing at you while you find out for sure if the boat manufacturer skimped on flotation.

2 - Step off the side of a boat at a gravel boat launch
Your average boat launch is very predictable, about the most drama you can expect when you take the boat out of the water is a 45 minute wait while the guy ahead of you does everything but paint his boat and re-grease his trailer bearings before moving out of your way.

This is not always the case if you fish somewhere like the Fraser where the launches are made from river gravel and half the people using them are in jet boats. Jet boaters often back the trailer halfway in and goose the throttle until the boat rises and settles on the trailer. It takes a little skill, looks cool and they are out in a hurry. No harm done, right?

Well not really. The problem with goosing the throttle of a jet motor at a 45 degree angle to a soft gravel bottom is that it digs holes. Big holes. Wife swallowing holes. The Fraser is murky and many a fisherman's spouse have stepped over the side of a boat only to vanish in a froth of bubbly curses and floating sun hats.

Unless you were planning to sell your boat and take up permanent residence on the couch anyway, probe the bottom with a net before you send your wife over the side at a Fraser launch.

3 - Take a young dog fishing
Dogs make great fishing partners,,,when they are old. Young dogs are like young humans in that all they really care about is food, making noise and breaking things. It is inconceivable to the mind of a young dog that it might be possible to stay still for minutes at a time and really, those loons were just asking for it.

70lb dog overboard + small boat + attempted collar-grab rescue = swimming fisherman, broken rods and a doggy date with Dr Neuter. Why the good creator decided that young dogs only need a brain the size of a huckleberry to control 12 feet of leg and a tail that could sweep a barnacle off a navigation buoy is beyond me.

Leave the dog at home until he is old enough to appreciate a dry spot to sleep and an occasional piece of beef jerky tossed his way. I feel pretty much the same way about young humans.

4 - Slam car door with fishing rods anywhere near the opening
You can leave fishing rods on your car seat over 50 miles of bumpy roads and they won't move but give the door a shove when you have fishing rods within 10 feet of it and they will slide out the opening just before it closes, every time. There is no stopping the carnage. All you can do is watch in horror as time slows and $600 worth of space-age graphite is obliterated like a twig in a wood chipper.

Put your rods back in their cases before you put them back in the car, even if it's only for a few minutes. BTW, rod company warranty guys can tell the difference between a rod that broke from a fish and one that was crushed in a door. Don't ask me how I know.

5 - Place fishing rods against tree while you finish loading the truck
I always insist on loading the truck at the end of the day by myself. I'm not trying to be rude to my partner but when you break your routine, bad things happen. One of those bad things is placing your rods against a tree while you load everything else and then driving away without them. You might get lucky and they might still be there when you come back but most of the time they vanish like socks in a dryer the moment you drive out of sight.

They say, “if you love something, set it free, if it comes back to you, it's yours, if not, it never was” but don't believe it. If you love something, keep it locked in the truck at all times. Common sense trumps t-shirt philosophy every time.

6 - Fail to check your knot after catching a fish or three
How easy is it to take a quick look at the connection between your lure and your line? It's pretty simple, I do it all the time. Usually right after I get 50 feet of fly-line in the face after an unhappy fish decides he's had enough of this nonsense.

Fish have sharp teeth and tippets are typically small and relatively weak compared to the rest of your rig. When you catch a fish you are in effect rubbing very thin plastic across a very sharp cheese grater. One fish can destroy a connection, a half dozen and you'll need divine intervention to keep a nice trout on your line.

7 - Low-hole a pack of Steelheaders
Steelheaders are a friendly bunch. Sit down next to a few of them in a pub and chances are they will spin you tales of fish caught and lost and the glory of rivers past. Like I said, real nice guys. Until you step in below them on a pool that is.

To understand the sudden change from jolly old men to raging medieval beserkers you need to understand a little bit of Steelhead etiquette. A fisherman will start at the head of a run, fish his cast to the end of it's swing, take two steps downstream and start over. When he gets to the bottom he walks up shore and waits his turn in the rotation. The system works well and it has been working well for a long time.

The problems start when a someone, typically a neophyte, sees a long stretch of nice water downstream from a line of fishermen that appears to be vacant and quite innocently steps into the bottom of the run and starts fishing. That's when the fireworks start and the blood pressure pills come out of the vests.

At that point if words are exchanged it's best just to apologize and ask them for advise on how to work the river in a cooperative way, they will usually become friendly and helpful again if you respect the fact that they know the drill and you don't.

8 - Take your kids fishing and bring your own rod
When my kids were young I loved to take them fishing but not until I learned to leave my own rod at home. Kids enjoy fishing and they love to spend time with you. If you try to get in some fishing yourself however, it's only a matter of time before you are frustrated, your kids are bored and somebody is crying, usually you.

Here are some simple rules for taking kids fishing:
Let them pee when they want to.
Don't let them hold their rod while you tie on a hook.
Buy cheap disposable gear.
Bring bandaids, lots of bandaids.

Until your kids decide they don't want you helping them anymore, you're better off thinking of it as a day in the boat and not a day fishing.

9 - Fly cast between you and your partner in a boat
I fish with a lot of different folk and there are maybe two people I trust to cast a fly-line between us on a boat. I am not one of them.

Position your boat so that you can each cast in opposite directions to the outside of the boat. Either that or wear a big hat, a high collared jacket and make yourself as small as possible. Try not to squeal when the fly gets too close, your friends will make fun of you.

10 -Use lawn chairs in a tin boat
Folding lawn chairs in a small tin boat are bad news. They tip over backwards much easier than you would expect. I can't even make a joke about this, too many people have died this way. Get a proper boat seat if you have to recline. Seriously.

11 - Try to learn Spey casting from a book but ignore the directions regarding wind direction
It is possible to at least learn the basics of Spey casting by reading some of the fine books available on the subject. Combine them with a video and you will have a general idea of what to try out on the river but you must pay attention to the part of the text that tells you which casts are appropriate for which river and wind direction.

Spey lines are longer, thicker and much heavier than a standard flyline. If you try to learn the wrong cast for the conditions, it is very possible that you will end up looking like a cartoon tornado as the line hits your head and wraps itself around you. If you are very lucky you were practicing with a piece of yarn instead of a fly but lets face it, you probably had a big heavy Salmon fly on there didn't you?

Read ALL the instructions, they really are there for a reason.

12 - Wade a river in open toed sandals
Summer, the river is cool, and the landscape around you is shimmering in the heat. What could be better than wet-wading while you throw a line to Stonefly crazy trout? Nothing. Nothing that is as long as you put on a pair of wading boots.

The temptation is great to just strap on the old sport sandals and it seems wonderful until you step on the first greasy volleyball sized rock and your foot jams down in between it and the next greasy rock at which point your toes are compacted into a space that wouldn't hold a McDonalds pickle. Even running shoes will leave you feeling like you ran your foot through a pasta maker.

Ditch the waders on hot days but wear the boots!

13 - Cast a heavy fly with a light fly-rod
You've heard the term, “chuck-n-duck”? It describes a particular way to fish heavy weights with a fly-rod but it also describes the process of fishing too big a fly for the rod you are using. A heavily weighted fly hits surprisingly hard when you get it in the back of the head. It can also destroy a graphite rod, both from the action of casting it and the impact of a solid collision.

You hardly ever really need a fly that big and when you do, bring the big rod, don't try and cast a brick with a chopstick.

14 - Ignore requests from your bladder while fishing from a float tube
You can get a long way down a lake in a float tube, especially if you are going with the wind. In fact even on a small lake you can put an hour between you and an approachable shoreline with no difficulty. None of that is really an issue until you get that little tickle that tells you it's time to make your way in to where you can peel down the waders and relieve the situation, hopefully without traumatizing any sensitive cottagers.

That also wouldn't be a problem if we heeded that first warning but we don't. We tell ourselves “one more cast” and after 20 “last” casts we catch a fish and the whole thing starts all over again. By the time the red light is flashing in our brain that says “either you take care of this now or you make up a leaky wader story” we realize we are a long way from shore and that it's really tough to cross your legs while you paddle with your feet.

If you are an observer these folk are easy to spot, the grim look on their face, the steady rhythmic paddling, the frequent glances over their shoulder to check their progress. I don't know if the old wives tails of exploding bladders are true but who really wants to find out?

15 – Change your line with a cigarette in your hand
This actually happened to a good friend of mine. We were fishing the Thompson and had paused to take a break and change to a more suitable line. The line he was changing was an old favorite and one that had been discontinued by the manufacturer. He being a smoker was killing two birds with one stone and satisfying his demon while he fiddled with loops of flyline.

I happened to be looking right at him when the cigarette in his left hand contacted the fly-line in his right and half the line fell to his feet like an electrocuted snake. I wish to this day I had had a camera to record the look of dismay on his face as he stared at his treasured heirloom lying impotently on the ground.

I guess the moral to this story is “don't smoke”. Or maybe it's, “when they stop making your favorite line, stock up” or perhaps it's “don't do anything funny in front of your friends because who knows, they might put it in a magazine someday” but I prefer to think that the moral to this and all the other stories is simply “Be present in the here and now and if it sounds like a bad idea, it almost definitely is.”

Simple advise that I mean to follow myself. Yup. Any day now.

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