When I was growing up, fishing was about catching dinner. In West Michigan that meant sitting shoulder to shoulder on the channel wall with a cane pole or rod and reel and filling your bucket full of perch. Those days are pretty much gone and today fishing has taken on a different personality. The bass fishing fraternity has evolved into a competitive sport complete with contests where the participants spend two or three days flying around some waterway in sleek fiberglass crafts, powered by engines of obscene horsepower. The players are mostly friendly to each other. Their camaraderie is in the pursuit of the specie and a love of their boats.
Muskie fishermen are united by their persistent devotion to the fish caught by ten thousand casts. This type of casting involves throwing heavy lures for extended periods of time hoping for that fifty- inch-plus fish of their dreams. While the catch rate is small compared to other species, the thrill of the catch is great. If you don’t believe me just go to a meeting of a musky club and you can feel the electrifying excitement as they trade stories and techniques.
Then there is that group of men who go wading in rivers. They might use spinning or fly equipment but they have one thing in common besides enjoying being on the river. That is, no matter how much or how little they paid, or what name brand of waders they own, failure will come. Murphy’s Law states that on the coldest day when the water temperature is a few degrees above freezing over and the fish are biting, your waders will fail. Hence, the first part of the name of my blog.
Over the years I have enjoyed the writings of men like Patrick McManus, John Gierach and Dana Lamb. During those hard water months when one anticipates spring, these authors and others help pass the time and “place” you on a stream in your imaginings. When I was younger I enjoyed a column in our local paper by an outdoorsman by the name of Whitey Sawyer. Through his column I developed a desire to pursue trout with the fly rod. Earlier this year when I was fishing one of my favorite rivers (if it has trout and is wade able, it can quickly become a favorite. Can I help it if I’m fickle?). I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Sawyer. Like Gierach, McManus, me, and others, he sported a hat that even a second hand store would reject. These hats share a common denominator. They are worn out, thread bare or even holey, but they are comfortable. One cannot help but feel naked without such a hat. Certainly no self-respecting river angler could feel right fishing without one. It’s the raggedy hat that defines the seasoned angler.
So there you have it – leaky waders and raggedy hats – a fraternity of which I am a proud member.