Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Opposite Man

Lake Hopatcong has big crappies, too

So now that ice fishing is done, unless we get a cold snap producing marginally safe ice for a little while, I look ahead. This afternoon I turned over and ran my auger powerhead about two dozen times, each pull of the chord resulting in engine running for about a few seconds, to burn off the Husquevarna left inside. I never get all of it out of the bulb pump, but that dries out pretty quickly, and the plastic is preserved against rot. All the tip-ups, etc., are put away, and at one moment, I remembered last year like yesterday.

This year's fishing will be like past years', as far as numbers of fish and size go, but the actual number of outings may decline somewhat, since I don't get writing done I don't do. Supermarket food prepping demands more of my time than years I worked for the credit union and country club. Oh, gee, I forgot. Mental work isn't serious in America. The serious stuff is what you can blow out your ass. (If that comparison were the truth, instead of tongue-in-cheek, we would all go down on the farm very fast.) I'm inspired to write this post after viewing a video on the Fishing with Attitude site I will link you to. Steve Vullo is really good at what he does. If I knew the fishing industry as Steve does, I would be working at a much higher position in the supermarket chain than food prepping! His video offers simple approaches to understanding the product dimension, but then, why is it I don't pursue this further? There's no way, if I took Steve's advice, I would get as good at it as he is, but this is much less due to what I lack, than interest in other things. (I suppose I wouldn't want to be a district manager.)

Back when Matt and I began fishing Lake Hopatcong in 2007, I assessed my fishing abilities in a much wider respect than for the nonce, and I knew that not only do people exist on that lake, fishing it several times a week at the least; much the same is true about the New Jersey scene in general, not to mention the national, and the international. There are people who globetrot, fishing dozens of countries. I like to read about them in fly fishing, sporting, and saltwater fishing magazines.

I would fish more if I could, and I earnestly work at increasing my ability to catch fish, but I resigned myself more than 10 years ago to the fact that there are others who do better than me, and with a little wistful uncertainty, it's true, I resigned myself to never comparing to the performance many others achieve. But fishing is less about performance than contemplation for me anyway. I would have believed this not true during my teens, but looking back on those years, I wonder if that really was the fact, despite how hard I worked at doing it real well, fishing 250 days each year. Catching a lot of fish, too, but overestimating my abilities, I think, even though, for a teenager, and putting in the time, I was good. Part of the reason I look back and think it was more about contemplation than I reflected upon, evaluated, and recognized, is because what I best remember about those years now is not my driven obsession with making catches, accumulating numbers, and comparing them to past performance, not to mention joining a Bass Anglers Sportsmen's Society chapter at age 16 and winning tournaments, taking trophies from men older than twice my age. That was a ballsy move on my part, which raised the eyebrows of a few upon my admittance to the club. I was a tall young man who looked three or four years older than I really was, sitting in a strip bar after a club meeting among a few of us, talking bass fishing obsessively, turning back a beer bottle as a dancer methodically moved her ass four feet before me. (Perhaps she could tell I wasn't legally there!) That wasn't the only visit to places not so forbidden during the seventies, and New Jersey not the only state to host our tournaments.

"Boy! You're hell on equipment!" My outdoor mentor once boasted. A man who never would have taught me, had he not thought me accomplished, at age 14, no less. Obviously, I never forgot this incident. I laughed, but his blustery show cut to a truth central to who I am. I remember my mentor and so much of everything else but best value the memory of pedaling home from fishing on my 10-speed Schwinn, thinking hard on the unanswerable question of why I fished. I've never answered that question. Aristotle's recognition of means leading to the end of happiness is way too simple an idea to serve as answer, I mean, of course that is true, but the meaning of my question involves a whole lot more. Many years after I contemplated this idea for about two years' time, I read about philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein asking the same question and just as lost on it about his passion for tennis. I took a very professionally involved IQ test years ago--the process involved three one or two hour visits, three times over three weeks--because I am so bad with piecemeal information and things like fishing equipment that this messy state of affairs caused concern, in hopes that there might be a way for me to improve. No one thought I was stupid...just stupid in a certain way, and the woman who had the hunch wanted it confirmed, as if the knowledge might help solve the problem, which it has not, except that the knowledge gained does help sooth my nerves about it all....and once and awhile, translating technical shortcuts in words does help. Besides, I value my fishing equipment. My study upstairs just looks like a wreck. The IQ test revealed a verbal score way up in the gifted range; a performance score I would rather not talk about! America is "all about" (as we say) performance. I'm good with words, where stuff seems to matter more. So does that mean I capitulate, give up, throw in the towel, because shit is a better product than what I write? I told my son on the phone from Boston University the other day, while trying to figure out how to get the printer to print, that if he could explain the technical moves in words, I can do them. He couldn't, so as yet I'm stuck with this problem, not that I haven't tried to figure it out, but I haven't succeeded, of course. Finally, I had my wife do it, not that dependency feels all that great, but to refuse to ask for help is worse. Written language use--in conversation too--is technical, but the way I continue to learn syntactical moves isn't very conventional. It's more like sculpting, perhaps. I see my way to solutions, and then name the rule I've exercised, if I bother to name it at all, usually I don't. Most writers, like me, rarely do. If the move is unusual, then a rule of thumb might pop up on the mental screen. In general, writers who are successful know what they're doing and don't reflect back on the explicit principles as they work. Do I make mistakes? The process is messy for perhaps all writers, but my mother gave me a book about 40 years ago, The Careful Writer. What you read, I hope, is a polished product.

And the musical resonance of words often guides my selections. One of my readers told me some of the Litton's Fishing Lines passages impress him as music, and he should know. He's a professional musician. It would have been nice if I told him this is intended, but I simply never thought to say so. None of this means I'm the greatest genius of the English language going around here--I might say American language, anyway--it just means that Litton's Fishing Lines is a double entendre.

So there you go, some attitude.

There's hope I'll score some big numbers, and catch some big fish, this year. Plans galore swim in my head, but I won't go into these, because that's way too involved. I'll only say I plan on fly fishing with my son and Mike Maxwell early in March. We have the choice of fishing where a fair amount got stocked recently, and where holdovers are pretty, but probably fewer in number.

Here's the link to Vullo's spiel. I think he's good at it: https://www.facebook.com/FishingWitAttitude/videos/1780371935591085/


  1. Feel like a celebrity now :). Really enjoyed the Meadowlands story, such a strange place for fishing considering its past. JH

  2. Always has a lurid feeling, and sort of spiritual to compensate for this, as if a sort of netherworld.

  3. Good to hear from you again. I forget which post, but I happened to visit it just a few days ago, your comment on it.

  4. Now that is a crappie! I love catching plate sized crappie

    1. A nice one. I got word of a 22-incher caught at Spruce Run, but I believe in 17-inchers, not quite in that much longer.


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