Saturday, February 25, 2012

Trout Madness

.......or Why Fly Fisherwomen should be Avoided like Wood Ticks

One of the greatest gifts my mom ever gave me was the love of reading. I started to read at a fairly young age and have been a voracious reader ever since. One of my earliest memories involves the two of us sitting on the living room couch while she quizzed me with oversized flashcards. Each card had a capital and lowercase letter from the alphabet along with a colorful image of an item beginning with that letter. I can still see the "Aa" card with a bright, red apple on it. Throughout school, whenever the teacher would be calling on students to read aloud to the class, I would secretly be hoping they'd call on me. I have no doubt that being a good reader at a young age helped set me up for a future of academic success.  I can also picture my younger self reclining in an old, yellow bean bag reading one of the Little House on the Prairie books while the scent of Pledge hung heavily in the air and the noise of my mom's vacuuming drowned out all other sounds. Getting immersed in a good book was a valid excuse for postponing household chores in my family, and I loved getting lost in books; that remains true today.

I still read a tremendous amount of literature, especially during our greenhouse off-season. There's nothing like curling up on the couch with a cup of coffee, a cuddly cat, and a good read.  I even started keeping a literary notebook years ago so I can keep track of the books I go through. A large number of notebook entries over the past few years have been related to fly fishing. One way I've found to keep spirits up during the long closure of the Wisconsin inland trout season is to fly fish vicariously through the writings of other fly fishers. One such book I just completed is Trout Madness by Robert Traver (aka John Voelker). It was a quick and entertaining read that transported me to many remote trout streams in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Within the first few pages of this book, I was already hooked by Traver's candid prose. Even his preface contained several proclamations that still ring true today:

…sometimes [a fisherman] fishes not because he regards fishing as being so terribly important but because he suspects that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant.
(p. viii)

In my view the best time to go trout fishing is when you can get away. (p. x)

It's interesting how the simplest phrases are often the most profound.

Because Trout Madness was published in 1960, the hint of chauvinism that appears in a couple chapters is excusable.  If I were to travel back in time to cross paths with John Voelker, I doubt I would be invited to tag along on any of his fishing excursions and would likely be looked upon as a curse to the sport of trout fishing, much like those damn bait fishermen he despises, but I forgive him for this folly (and secretly think I could win him over if given the chance).

 Some of the most enjoyable quotes from Trout Madness allude to the cursed female species:

When [fishermen] aren’t fishing they gabble and prattle about fishing much as clusters of idle women run on about babies and clothes—and the witch-like tendencies of other women. (p. 127)

Ignoring the offensive remark about idle women, Traver's description of the tendency for many fly fishermen to fill up their time off the water by prattling on about anything and everything related to the sport of fly fishing is spot on in my experience.

 And my favorite:

Women Fishermen:  Avoid them.  One kind will quietly out-fish you and generally get in your hair while another variety will come down with the vapors and want to go home just when the rise gets under way. Avoid all of them like wood ticks.
            (p. 144)

I don't think I've ever come down with the "vapors," but I do remember out-fishing some partners on rare occasions.

If something like the above quotes were published in fly fishing literature today, I'm sure you'd hear a huge outcry from both sexes, though I'm not so naive to assume all fly fishermen welcome women into their fishing camps with open arms. I've been lucky in my exploits to come across a good number of fly fishermen who have accepted me into their clan. I doubt they worry about me coming down with the "vapors," but if they secretly regard me as a blood sucking parasite, at least they keep it to themselves.


  1. This book has been on my list for quite some time, slowly inching up as I scratch off the top. I'm moving it up higher! Brilliant review.

  2. I have a book for you as soon as I get it done. Recommended by Dr. Phil A.

    "The earth is enough"

  3. Excellent! I look forward to borrowing it from you.