Saturday, July 20, 2013


Due to the growing number of perturbed liberals within the populous, fishermen no longer exist in Washington State.

Yes, to enjoy the sport of fishing in the Pacific Northwest, you’re now required to ditch the “gender-specific” “men” and conduct yourself as a “fisher,” which may illicit some ill will from the like-named furry rodents being reintroduced.  Evidently, someone was offended.  However, though this slight amendment to the local dialect changes little, I can still think of more offensive terms being tossed around the fishing community.

One exceptionally hot May morning, my brother and I, looking for respite, moved west into the mountains for a day’s fishing on the South River.  The spring creek browns the river has become famous for had eluded our grasps on our previous trip, and we were serious.  Stepping out of the truck, assembling rods and choosing flies, a middle-aged man in waders, a tasteful oxford, and leather Stetson made his way from the river towards his car.

“Catch anything?” My brother intercepted his stroll.

“Not unless you count two chubs,” the man tossed back snootily.

What the man had brought to hand were chubs, but more specifically and appropriately, a species known as the fallfish, simply.  The man had struck a nerve.

Suckers, redhorses, fallfish, and the chubs are often kicked to the curb, to be joined by the larger drum, bowfin, gar, sauger, and carp, and dubbed collectively “trash fish.”  The reason being their supposed futile potential as game fish and scrap existence alongside their more “sporty” bourgeoisie cousins in the aquatic world.

Ironically, in the case of the larger members of the “trash” bin, what seems to ultimately earn them this title is their prowess and intellect that combine to shape a fish of great challenge to net.  Many would rather chase more susceptible prey.  Those who see past the less-than-perfect appearance and stubborn feeding habits behold fish relatively unknown as fish of rod and reel, and are intrigued by the challenge.

The others, the chubs and suckers, are beat up purely because of their looks and because they often inhabit the same waters as trout and bass, but carry a bit more zeal for a meal than their selective hazers, which they fight for equally as well.  An unfortunate subspecies of fisherman seems to believe they are royalty, and that these fish belong under their feet because they don’t carry a similarly selective palate.

While I do understand the anticlimax that comes with setting the hook on what you believe to be a 10-inch native brookie, only to find a silver croaking fallfish defecating in your hand, my encounters with the fish are a bit more forgiving than others’.

I’ve managed to refrain from indulging in chub slander mostly out of respect for a fine-fighting fish, but also out of appreciation.  Whether it’s different for kids coming of age on the slopes of the Rockies or the Sierras, or even those more imbued in the Appalachian’s blue ridges than I, I don’t know.  But when I was learning the ways of the rivers and streams of my home, the Piedmont, fallfish and chubs were my trade.  Any of the small creeks I was allowed to explore on my own were filled with such fish, and they often made the difference between a 10- and 100-fish days, for which I was grateful.

Fallfish were my favorite, but horneyhead chubs provided a quirky change of pace, and the suckers always managed to elude me.  They were my means of learning to those small streams and creeks and the lessons that came with them.

14 inches was my personal record in one creek near my home—wadeable, and fishable with a rod and reel.  As an even younger kid, I still can remember the five-inch monster chub I fooled from a neighborhood trickle with a rusty snelled #2 baitholder, a foot and a half of line, and a stick.

Though very modest catches, these were fish I’ll always remember; and I do my best to show others the value of a fish that values their lives enough to fight for it, no matter their looks or habits.

Watching as my brother caught and admired his first horneyhead chub, I tried to remember my first catch, I could not, but found empathy for a thing well established in me.  Thus, when I pull a writhing chub from a mountain trout stream, my attitude is droll but deeply appreciative.

So, if Mr. McDonnell were too so inclined, I would urge him to leave freshmen alone.  I’ll soon be one and could deal without the added confusion.  I believe the largemouth’s popularity far outshines the hurtful “Bigmouth;” but trash fish have yet to see justice, and I would appreciate seeing their struggle alleviated. 

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