Thursday, May 15, 2008


I married off another one of my fishing buddies the other day. Sad, really. My ex-second-best fishing buddy is standing up there at the alter while the preacher does his thing, and you can bet my buddy is not thinking about whether he should switch to a #18 Callibeatis, or stick with the #16’s. You know, important fishing stuff. In the meantime, I am back there in the crowd, trying to keep from having a full-out hay fever attack due to all the flowers and feeling sorry for myself.
When you think about it, good fishing buddies and good Labradors are hard to find. And once you find one, you hate to lose him, especially to a girl. The only thing you know for sure is that marriage is going to screw it up. Here is what the conversation used to sound like when two fishing buddies planned a fishing trip:
“I was thinking about fishing that creek we caught all those little ones on last year this time.”
“One with the skunk?”
“Works for me.”
“Meet at the parking lot behind the Piggly-Wiggly at 6:00 am?”
“Say 5:30, I wanna make sure we’re the first ones there.”
See what I mean? Two hearts beating as one.
Now here is what it sounds like after a year or so of marriage:
“Hi, it’s your fishing buddy, who has a severe case of cabin fever, and badly needs to go somewhere and catch something.”
“Ahh, hey, man, I’d love to…hang on a minute.”
(Muffled sounds of domesticity, including baby crying)
“Ahh, man, hey, I’d love to but I’m not sure I can…wait a minute…yes, dear, I got the new Huggies at Costco on my way home…yeah, and the Enfamil and the organic baby yoghurt too…sorry man, it’s been a little hectic around here…hey, did I tell you about what the baby did last night…it was the cutest thing…uh, yeah, I can get back to you, if you want…sure, great talking with you, too.”
See what I mean? Fishing buddies have a short shelf life. There is a pretty narrow window between not being able to get them off their elbows to go fishing with you, to not being able to get them off their ass.
Remember that old joke about how you should never sleep with anyone crazier than you are? Not exactly true when it comes to fishing buddies. It really helps when you are able to tell your significant other “well, yeah, I really messed up, but what about him…he makes me look good.” A fishing buddy should always make you look good by comparison.
And when it comes to crazy, you want to pick partners who are at least as crazy about fishing or hunting as you are. How crazy? Well, on a recent trip I walked into the next motel room and one of my buddies was watching “American Fly-fishing” on OLN…and he was fondling himself! It was a hell of a fish, come to think of it.
It also helps if your buddy is younger than you. This means you have someone to do the heavy lifting, while you mutter stuff about “stenosis,” “systolic infarction,” and other mysterious and painful conditions. If Buddy is CPR-rated, so much the better. However, he is not allowed to field-dress you before bringing you back in a fireman’s carry when you have The Big One a long way from the truck. Not good. It will also help if your buddy has strong political convictions. It does not really matter which side of the spectrum they come down on, and it can be a plus if they have the opposite view from you. You will be able to stay awake on that long drive home while you are arguing about the topic du jour. Wander past him while he is casting to a rising trout and mutter something like “lily-livered liberal” or “conservative knuckle-dragger” to him. He will immediately get his back cast hung up in the rhododendrons, and you can sneak into that really nice pool just ahead of him…which is more important than politics anyway. Stuff like this can lead to fisticuffs during the presidential primary season, but shrug off the whole affair as just another good fishing buddy gone bad, and find another one. Only next time make sure New Buddy doesn’t have a wicked left jab-right hook combination like the last one. That hurt!
You need to decide up front what your attitude towards fishing is and pick your buddies accordingly. If you are a “counter” then hang out with a guy who keeps a running total on his solar-powered Blackberry. The last thing you want is to land a good fish, squall triumphantly “Yo, that’s the fastest I have ever landed 30 fish before noon”, and have your pal look off into the trees and say something like “oooh, look, it’s a cross-eyed tomtit” You guys are not going to make it. On the other hand, if you are into the quality of things and you run across a “counter”, just shoot him. Any jury will let you off for temporary insanity, because counting will most definitely drive you crazy. I am kind of in between when it comes to counting. I use the John Gierach scale…I either catch “none”, “a few”, or “a bunch.” That pretty much covers any situation.
Now, size matters, and a fishing buddy must unquestioningly accept your estimate of the size of the fish you just landed. It sounds good to say “wow, I could barely get him in the net!” The role of a fishing buddy is to say “ good fish, man, way to go” in reverential tones. However, the truth is that the fish was some poor 9” colorless rainbow that fell off the stocking truck about an hour ago. The only reason you had trouble getting him in the net was because you had completely messed up your line. When you have a cats-cradle across the mouth of your net and the loose fly line wrapped around your head, it stands to reason that it is going to be hard to get him into the net. But what does Buddy say? “Way to go, man!” A real buddy is always there for you.
Booze plays a big part in fishing and you need to find out about your new pal. You are setting up a disaster of some significance if both you and Buddy are gargantuan, fighting, loud, rude drink-‘til-you-drop boozers. It is a really good idea for at least one of you to be a more laid-back type with a Platinum AAA card… then you can go bail for the rowdy one in the morning. Two quiet drunks can work, but things might get a little comatose around the cabin if you are rain-bound. The best is if you take turns between rowdy and bail bondsman, that way you never get bored. While you are at it, decide on your favorite tipple and stick with it. It can be a problem when you bring only one bottle of fine single-malt for a two day trip, and your beer drinking buddy says he’d “like to try him some of that.” I don’t mind sharing at all, unless it means I might run out of scotch, in which case me and Buddy are going to fall out.

Kilkenny - Mexico Olympics

Kilkenny - Mexico Olympics
Now THAT'S Roads and Tracks