My Fishing’s Top 5 Curses

I find that fly-fishing is a greatly rewarding activity, and I certainly don’t want to give the wrong impression here, but let’s face it: fishing can be work at times, no matter what society may think of recreational louts extolling the virtues of their craft. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are no free lunches on this mortal coil, and I doubt that fly guys are granted any major exceptions. Most of my fishing is a solitary business, so that any loathsome utterances issued from my lips are likely to be heard only by the willow trees and warblers and are not likely to assault an innocent ear. That said, here’s my Top Five fly-fishing problems and vexations that are likely to get me in a vocal dander…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA#5– Leaky waders. You’d think that a decent pair would last me for a couple of years at least before inviting the stream to come inside. I suppose, though, if you’re rough on the equipment and you fish a hundred times a year, then a two-year life span on a pair of hotshot breathables might not be so bad at all.

#4– Timothy. I’m not sure of the genus and species of this tall streamside grass, but it’s common through the summer and, damn it all, catches more than its share of artificial flies and leader tippets for a meal. @&:*! Another one!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

#3– Trash. No need for description here. One hates to find it strung out on a willow branch, or tossed out to the edges of a favorite pool. @#%* those idiots!

#2–Yours Truly. Whether by impatience or ineptitude, I often get in the way of myself, which always threatens peace and clarity of mind. @#%* me! Stupid #&&#%$!

#1Humanity-at-Large. When 4-wheelers cross and recross a favorite stream and wear down the banks, when I find yet another empty beer can or water bottle or disposable diaper stranded in a bush, I take it out on my own species. As much as I love my friends and family and admire some thousands of individuals on this planet, I’ve got to admit there’s just too damned many of us (7 billion and counting rapidly) to sustain the earth and healthy life.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What’s a healthy number for our kind across the planet? I don’t know, but maybe somewhere around the 2 billion mark. That’s just a shot in the dark. I don’t agree with some radicals who insist that, to save our planet, we should live long and voluntarily die out completely as a species. We’re part of nature’s plan; there’s just too many of us for the good of all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur ship is sinking, as you probably understand, and the only way I can see for all of us to hit the life-boats is to do the following: go easy on the breeding business (and support adoption), preserve more wilderness, and help to educate another human being or two. With luck, people will eventually come to understand what it is we need to do. Unfortunately, history is not on our side.

If the populations of the U.S. and the world could magically diminish overnight without anyone’s suffering, we dreamers might note that the problems of war and hunger and habitat destruction and climate change and… cursing on the stream… would be a whole lot lighter in the morning (metaphorically speaking).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo you have a favorite target or two for expletives on the water or in the field? If so, let me know of them. If frustrations seem unbearable at times, if you sometimes feel as though you just Can’t Win, do as I do: get a favorite beverage and a piece of music, kick back and avoid taking out frustrations on a loved one or a nuisance cat.

The following song, “Can’t Win,” is a Richard Thompson favorite, versions of which are said to contain one of the very best electric guitar solos ever. This 12:11 video may cause you to curse, but only in amazement.



About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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31 Responses to My Fishing’s Top 5 Curses

  1. Leigh says:

    Walt, I agree with much of what you say here. Clearly I share the habit of letting it fly #%? on the water. But I always feel that I walk away a little wiser for the experience. One day I’ll actually know something.

    • I hear you, Leigh, hopefully we do walk away a little wiser for the struggles we go through, but for me it can take a while for that “wisdom” to sink in, and then, again, being wiser can be a little painful in itself.

  2. Ken G says:

    Just ordered another pair of waders today. Lasted the usual 100 trips. I’ve given up on the more expensive waders. They wind up being expensive leaky waders by the 100th trip anyway.

    My list of expletive producing events is virtually identical to yours, but garbage on the shores irks me more than any. Been finding and photographing more bottles of SmartWater. I plan on sending the shots to the maker.

    Let them know it’s not working.

  3. Good job, Ken; those water bottles are a waste in more than one way. And I used to have your take on the leaky wader situation– 100 trips and out– but the latest pair of Orvis (supporting my local fly shop) got to around 150 trips before crapping out, which gives me a little hope– pay a little more and get more mileage, but still it falls short of expectation– aargh.

    • Ken G says:

      That’s the problem Walt, average per year for me is around 70 trips, so no matter how you look at it, at some point in year two new waders are called for. Drives me nuts. All efforts to try to extend the life of the most recent pair all failed this past week. It does hark back to what my ma always said… you are so hard on your clothes.

      As for water bottles, I have quart bottles I refill all the time, from the kitchen tap. Paying for bottled water when you can get it out of a tap is just obscene.

      • Bottling water for recreational and most home purposes is obscene, in my estimation, because of the blatant lies involved and the huge expense of bottling and distribution, which we pay for and thus keep the CEOs smiling. As for the waders, I share the misery. I know a few guys who say, I buy … waders and have no problems. They don’t tell you right off that they’ve shelled out 4 or 5-hundred bucks for a pair, and only go fishing 17 times a year.

  4. stflyfisher says:

    Very nice post. The thing I hate to see most is garbage and trash as well as trampled-down banks, “Y” sticks, and gutted fish remains…

    The world’s holding capacity from what I’ve read is 40 billion – but that assumes high count urban living. It’s no coincidence that violence and war will only increase, as will drought, plague, poverty, as people draw near to one another. I cherish lone moments on the water…

    • Thank you! Yeah, those images are horrible to chance upon, but all too common for fishers who care about clean water. As for a holding capacity of 40 billion, that sounds to me like standing room only, compared to the current figures, and is nightmarish and obscene. I shudder to think about what it means for the quality of human life and for plants and animals. Everything and everyone would be living in a guarded zoo, the balance of nature long departed. I’m glad for living here and now, but fear the worst for coming generations (and Technology will not be our Savior).

      • Brent says:

        Interestingly, I think we could safely handle more people at more sustainable levels relative to the status quo with some big changes. Perhaps 40 billion would be terrible under ANY circumstances, but we wouldn’t be pushing our ecological limits so much if human habitation was distributed in different ways. Even assuming no more population growth, we need more people in well-planned cities that are located in appropriate geographies–no more water-guzzling desert suburbs. I’ve read that California (nearly 40 million people) has an “sustainable limit” of about 2 million people; Arizona (population around 6 million) should have no more than 50-100K; and Nevada (with 2.5 million) should have no more than 10-20K.

      • Brent says:

        Aside from this more serious tangent (which raised some important issues), the post was fun. I was able to easily imagine you cursing “wuthless” as an errant back-cast catches a riverside weed.

  5. I have committed a few of those curses on the water at times. I simply cannot abide by those who leave their trash on the water, it shows me they have no respect for the area they are fishing. Thanks for sharing some interesting facts.

  6. You’re right, Bill, it seems there’s no respect or thought of caring when coming upon this s*^! One thing I try to encourage others to do, to make a small difference, is to make space in a vest or pocket for a token piece or two of garbage that we find out there, and just haul it out. It makes us feel better, if nothing else. Thanks for commenting!

  7. Bob Stanton says:

    Great post Walt, everything you’ve listed is extremely irksome. I find though, that getting your fly hung up in vegetation of any sort is a great way to dry it, especially CDC flies. Works better than any floatant or desiccant I’ve ever tried. As for stemming the population of the world, I think we’re doomed, and maybe sooner than later. Even if we could convince the industrialized countries of the urgency of limiting their procreation rates, good luck with the undereducated and poor of the world, who’s few joys seems to include having babies.

    • You’re a smart fella, Bob; I’m not one to argue with these points or to urge you to retract the D-word (Doom): I’m just tryin’ to break the old news gently, in case this blog site is mistaken for a family place (even though I hope the whole fam damily enjoys it in potentia). Yeah, but to live completely without hope is no fun at all, and I wouldn’t encourage anyone to pack it in just yet, unless he or she really wanted to. P.S., when you hang those flies out to dry in the branches, you’re likely to use thorns and hellacious fibers for clothespins, I’ll bet.

  8. Brent, there’s always a “wuthless” feline in the mix somewhere around here, for sure. Agreed! Appropriate geographic distribution of the population would really make a positive difference, but where’s the brain-power that’s going to manifest such changes, in the educational system? Not much hope there, and you don’t want to see politicos get any more heavy-handed (assuming they had seen the light).

  9. Bob Stanton says:

    Maybe a good place to start educating folks about population control would be the Duggars of “Nineteen Kids And Counting” or however many they’re up to now fame. As a comedian I once heard remarked, “For God’s sake woman, it’s a uterus, not a clown car!”

  10. “Nineteen Kids and Counting” might be published for the educational system as part of the Common Core curriculum, with appropropriate grade-level versions for K-12, and a “do-or-die” required text for all college entrants. Maybe I should forward this idea of ours to Albany this fall and see what They think…

  11. Mike says:

    Blood knots. Ask anyone I fish with. “#@!$ing blood knots!!!”

    As far as the population…I’m eight of nine in a generation of Irish Catholics with three more that “shook the hook” of this earth, lol…I don’t know the answer to that one…but those damn blood knots!

    Great post!

    • Oh yeah, Mike, blood knots! How could I forget? Just the other day, while fishing on the Beaverkill, we were into picky trout that were feeding selectively on midges so we had to blood-knot 6X tippets on the leader in order to present our tiny gnats to the choppy water. For a while we were getting repeated break-offs at the damned blood knot connection. I’m not kidding, for a while I had to laugh for cursing my ineptitude with the thing. You’re right, blood knots can be vicious. I’d probably rank them right up there with leaky waders, maybe my #6. Thanks, my friend.

      • Mike says:

        I’m going to head up there for an A.M. trip tomorrow, so I will take this as a great tip on what to fish…and add some 6x this evening in the comfort of my living room, lol…thanks 🙂

  12. Les Kish says:

    All good points Walt. Solitary spruce trees are the bane of my casting. Waders? Yup, they should last longer. Might add failing eyesight to the list too. And, of course, there’s too many people out there. I think that they’re all floating down the Madison as we speak.

    • Oh my gods, Les, floating down the Madison, flushed down like… well; I can picture it. And spruce boughs, sure. Failing eyesight is in my Top 10 and I hope it doesn’t come up any higher.

  13. Mike, Another tip! Check the Cairns Pool, watch for trout flying out for caddis emergers, or feeding calmly just beneath the surfaces as those little rascals, the size 22/24 midges appear.

  14. If only we got to pick the 5 billion folks to surplus! Unfortunately, I might be at the top of someone else’s list. I have a feeling nature is going to handle the excess population. It just may not be in a way we like.

  15. great blog this time round. not a thompson fan but the video is great as well.
    how about this one: cold freezing temps and trying to unwind a new leader from the packet. a few mother tracking f bombs there. how about wind knots in leaders, particularly low strength like 7x?
    how about one fly left of one kind and that is the one that they are hitting. catch three on it and it is rendered useless? Hatch still going strong.
    how about a huge fish slurping bugs, a big brown on the MI AuSable, and he is about 50 yards away. I have a pair of great Patagonia waders, but every approach is over my chest. Cannot reach him except with a spey. I have a bamboo rod and 5 wt. line. throw in a few cork soakers there.

  16. Thanks, Jack, for your list of ff curses. I’ve experienced every one, and a couple I never want to experience again, i.e., windknots, and putting on a new leader with frozen fingers (and trying to tie the damn fly on as well). Lots of sour memories are associated with these images. Also appreciate your listening to the Thompson video. His music has been with me since the early 70s.

  17. Alan says:

    Oh Nestle……….

  18. marymaryone says:

    My irritant is graffiti and vandalism in local nature preserves. The Nature Conservancy just closed one near me as a result.

  19. Sad but true, Mary. I’ve seen the problem at preserves, myself. You wonder why some people have to mark their territories in destructive ways. Even more frightening (and worth a loud curse) is the possibility that some idiots get off on destroying the very thing they love.

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