Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Master Baiter

My uncle Rex was a fisherman nonpareil. When he wasn't home he was either at work or off somewhere fishing. His wife, Azaelia used to say that she suspected he was fishing a lot of times he was supposed to be working. One thing was certain, she would add, there was no chance he'd be working when he was supposed to be fishing. One might gather that Rex loved to fish. Well, one would be right.

What he didn't know about fishing, he'd forgotten. My Dad once said of his older brother that they called him Paladin after the Richard Boone character on the TV show Have Gun Will Travel. His card would say "Have Rod Will Travel." Everywhere he went, his rod and tackle box would be in his car or truck.

Any time he ask if any of us kids wanted to go fishing with him, I was always the first to volunteer. It didn't matter if we would be fishing from the bank or from a boat. It didn't matter if we would be fishing with bait or with lures. It didn't matter if we'd be using poles or hand lines. To me fishing was fishing.

Although it took a lot of practice to learn, fly fishing was the "chess" of the sport. It took a long time to master, but was the most rewarding of fishing techniques. Not only did I learn a lot about fishing from him, I also learned to love the sport nearly as much as him.

He was very patient with me, and in time I was able to tie my own flies. Although I could never make the flies anywhere near his, I was proud of some of my creations. Trust me, it is a skilled art. I dare say, it is almost a forgotten art form. It's amazing what a skilled fly-maker can create with string, pieces of feathers, insect wings, etc.

It would be several years later before I realized the phonetic implication, but Uncle Rex used to say that a good fly tyer was a "master baiter." If you gave a large-mouth bass, trout, or a muskie the choice of a worm dangling on a hook or a fly skimming the surface, it would be the latter that the fish hit.

It would be the result of one of these fishing trips with him that one of those family funny memories would be born. Many years later the story would be repeated and everytime I would be the brunt of the joke. I had caught a good sized crappie using my own hand tyed fly. It was the first fish I ever caught using a fly. I was so excited that I was running ahead of Rex into the yard carrying my catch. "Look what I caught," I was shouting. "My fly caught it."

In a few minutes I had an audience that included my father, mother, grandparents and several aunts and uncles. Then I laid my golden egg when I proudly proclaimed, "Now I am a master baiter!"

As I said above, it would be years later before I was older and more 'knowlegable' about such things, that I discovered how phonetics can give a whole different meaning to the spoken word. Nevertheless, for several years after that day, there would be many conversations that opened with "Remember the day Mike caught that crappie with his fly?"

Of course in time, I would have experienced both in practice both of the phonetic versions. Don't worry, the second will not be discussed at length and certainly not with any details.

As those days turned into decades, I can still recall fondly the day I became a master baiter.

(Thanks to Stringman for the inspiration for this post. His post triggered this distant memory of my youth.)



Pareshaan said...

Excellent Sir, Hurrah to master bation!

Ivy the Goober said...

What a great story. Made me think of my dad who loved to fish. He probably would have thought the master baiter title was funny, too.

kenju said...

My aunt and uncle were both great fishermen. They would have loved this one!

OldHorsetailSnake said...

I tied one fly in my life. Took about 8 hours. I gave it up for Lent, or maybe just out of boredom. I am pleased to learn that one of us has some "master" talent.

FnQueen said...

I fondly remember fishin' with my grandpa. Guess he was a real ol' "Master Baiter" too! :D

StringMan said...

Nice post, Mike. I never realized how many fishing terms have double meanings: crappie, fly, baiter ... I thought fly fishing was what people who "whip it out" were doing: "Hey, check this out!".

Hale McKay said...

No, String, I believe you are thinking of "Trawling."

Peter said...

Very good Mike, you certainly opened the old bait box on a few pleasant memories there.
About the only form of fishing I haven't tried is fly-fishing, (I do play chess though if that counts for anything.)
BTW thanks for dropping in on a few family members.

Peter said...

Mike, thanks for the bit of Henry info, I couldn't see an email address anywhere on your site??
I didn't want to write, (or copy) a book but did come accross some other very interesting stuff, Henry owned, his own rubber plantation, his own fleet of ships, his own timber mills.... and the list goes on, one very complete business man.

TMelendez said...

Darn Mike.. you take me back to a memory I forgot I had... fishing out of a bridge.. hooking a darn tire...!! I mean, thats the stuff cartoons are made of.

The ones that were present can be heard every now and then asking; "Do you remember that day Tony hooked the tire..?"