by Henry J. Pratt
"Anglers come in all dimensions, colors, flavors, temperaments, cars, RVs, canoes, and professions. They growl if the youngsters awaken them on Sunday morning at 9, but they smile if awakened by a fishing buddy's auto horn Sunday morning at 3.
Dads teach them, wives wait for them, neighbors ridicule them-and-when the game wardens search their creels, heaven help them if they've overdone it. They're too tired to push a lawnmower over smooth grass, yet they can set a speed record wading upstream in hipboots."
One of the finest definitions of a fisherman I've ever heard was not from my Webster's but from a letter news commentator Paul Harvey recently received from L.J. Willett of Jackson, Minnesota. Harvey was so impressed, he published the letter in its entirety.
Willett says, "A fisherman may be a youngster with patched trousers, knotted string, a bent pin, and a willow stick. Or he/she may be a dude with a fancy fly rod and reel, or an old pro with chalk line and a cane pole. Any of these may be the zealous creature we call a fisherman."
Willett hit the nail on the head when he went on to say no one but a fisherman can rise so early, miss so many meals, carouse so late, strain so much, then come home all rested up. (As an RVing fisherman, I can relate to that.)
Regardless of whether he's out for bonefish in Florida or a rainbow trout in the Sierra, a fisherman's arthritis, like mine, won't let him transplant two rosebushes on his lawn. But he has no trouble digging a foot-deep ditch as long as his backyard-before breakfast-looking for earthworms.
According to Willett, a fisherman "is content with fish scales under his fingernails and a hardware store in his pocket: sinking rubber minnows, dried dough balls, half-dead grubs, shriveled-up nightcrawlers, assorted sinkers, tangled leaders, bent hooks, wet matches and a reeking pipe."
A fisherman like Willett or me is also apt to be carrying an illegible license, fishing regs too messed up to read, a bottle-opener, old trip invoices, a sharp knife, a faded map, several keys, and a few coins. It's a little bit of everything that's no good for anything but just might come in handy when you're fishing.
At home, "a fisherman's ulcer nags him, noise upsets him, the cook can't please him, a draft through the kitchen door chills him to the bone. But out on a lake or river in a rainstorm, the outboard motor roar soothes him, the wind invigorates him, and a can of beans fills him."
When a fisherman gets home with an empty stomach and some tall tales about the big one that got away, he complains to his better half about the butcher having a lead thumb. Then, the fisherman refuses to compute the gross cost of his solitary perch eight inches long.
At home, "the fisherman insists Junior's dinnertime hands must be washed twice with hot water and Borax. But the fisherman can slouch in a boat nibbling a sandwich with the same hands that just baited up."
In his den, the fisherman-as I do-might have a nice framed sign that says, "My wife said if I don't quit fishing, she is going to divorce me. Gosh, I'm sure going to miss her." Or a huge fishhook with colorful, enticing feathers on display with a Fisherman's Prayer: "May the Good Lord Grant/That Someday Even I/Might Catch a Big Fish/On a Make-Believe Fly!"
Willett says, "You can threaten the fisherman, insult him, seize his house and RV. You can pin his shoulders to the ground just by looking at his empty stringer and saying nothing.
"But when you have done your best and said your worst about a fishing buddy down on his luck, he'll give you a blunt reply that tells it all: 'So the big ones got away, but at least I now know where they are.'"
About the author: Henry Pratt is a Colonel retired from the U.S. Army Reserve and an administrator with the Department of the Interior Park Service. During the past 10 years he's been published over 800 times in magazines and newspapers across the U.S. and Canada.