Friday, May 21, 2010

The Floppy Hat

Fishermen are classified in many different ways. When I first started getting into fly fishing there was always a stigma around people who wore Fedora's. The assumption was these were uppity snob type characters. People who believe all fish should be caught on a dry fly and would never be seen by their peers tying on a egg pattern or god forbid a San Juan Worm. When you first view Orvis adds with photos of well outfitted fisherman wearing Fedora's you can get that impression. Now that I've gotten older and hung out with men wiser than me. I noticed most of them wore a wide brimmed hat. Many of these guys are well off but far from snobs. The idea was to keep the sun off you not make a fashion statement or display a certain status on the water.

I started looking at floppy wide brimmed hats every time I entered a sporting goods store. I even held them in my hands a couple times and looked around to see if anyone was watching before trying them on. I still couldn't get passed my own personal ideas of floppy hat wearers. I think of Gilligan or really old geezer type fisherman with tons of flies and lures sticking everywhere. What finally made me purchase one was thinking about life and how long I want to live it. Several TFF members have had skin cancer. I know I spend more time in sunny conditions than most people. I really don't want to go through any situation where I need surgery. I finally came up with the philosophy that it was better to look silly to others and live than look cool and die. So yesterday was my beginning as a floppy hat wearer.

Another reminder to smash hook barbs
My friend and I were fishing the work ponds to catch some bluegill and bass. We found decent areas where bass were holding but they weren't very aggressive. The other obstacle was the 10 or so sunfish that would chase down and peck your fly before any bass had a chance to even get close. I caught a few bass on poppers that were too big for the gills to get hooked. Then I switched over to a carp killer fly. I cast near a over hanging bush and saw a bass swim towards where the fly landed. My line went taught but when I went to set the hook I didn't feel any pressure. I saw the fish swimming kind of funny so I lifted my rod again and then saw the flash of a hooked fish. When the fish came closer I noticed it had not only inhaled the fly but swallowed it. Almost to where it was in the fishes stomach. I thought about cutting the line, but I figured the fish wouldn't live. My bag wasn't close so I had to borrow a friends pair of pliers. I tried and tried to get the hook out. The barb was still in it making it difficult but also the location of the hook set couldn't have been worse. After prying and prodding the fish started to bleed and I knew I was just causing more damage.

My buddy took over but had similar problems. The hook was just too deep, he finally got it out but we knew the fish had a pretty grim fate. Now comes the guilt trip of what do you do with the fish? Probably what we should have done as brutal as it sounds is killed the fish instantly with a knife or rock. The fish lover in us wants to believe a fish can survive any punishment we put it through. No catch and release fisherman wants to be responsible for a dead fish. The fish was really too small and we had nothing to keep it in to take it and find someone who might eat it. Honestly we probably would never find anyone any how. My childhood ignorance stepped in for a minute and I said we should just throw it in the bushes. Thinking it will be just a part of the food chain. My friend being an optimist figured the fish would live even though its life fluid was draining down his hand as he threw the fish back in.

What had just happened really bothered me and I couldn't help but feel really guilty as I walked over to my fish pack and smashed the hook barb down relieving some of the frustration. Yeah it's just a fish but if the barb was smashed down the whole event could have been prevented. What was strange too was why was this bothering me so much, do I think about the fishes well being too much? Or is that really not possible?

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