The Horror of a Good Rod

Evidently I have been harboring the misconception that I know how to

These days, a fishing rod is oh so much more complicated than it seems

use a fishing rod. Throughout my foolish youth, up to about 15 years or so ago, I assumed that fishing consisted of a line, a rod, a hook, some bait and maybe a bobber; and that you slung the rod forward and the line would sail, straight as a die, out into the water; that you would slowly reel that line in until the bobber met the tip of your rod and then you would repeat, until you caught a fish.

This is mostly true. Until your well-meaning youngest brother, fishing aficionado and camper extraordinaire, indulges your camping/fishing fantasies and gets you a moderately good fishing rod for no other reason than that he loves you. And wants a fishing buddy. And feels sorry for you because a few camping trips ago you placed your only–and therefore favorite–fishing rod  a good ways away from everyone else’s and a big wind blew up, unseated the very heavy branch that was holding up the main tarp, and made it thru some demonized whim smash gleefully upon your beloved rod, snapping it in two.

So there you are, proudly marching down to the waters’ edge to test your wonderful new fishing rod out, and with every promise of a wonderful day by the mountain lake, you cast–

–and it promptly birdnests on ya. (“Birdnest” is a term that means all the line tangles up around your reel, making it impossible to reel in or do anything, really. It is a newbie’s nightmare, but everyone suffers from this debilitating outcome at some point.) Fifteen minutes later you have it all untangled and you cast again. Another birdnest! This repeats for a dozen or so casts, when you finally give up. That’s when your youngest brother comes in from floating around in the new little floaty-boat he’s got and checks things out. At least, that’s what happened to me.

“Are you keeping your thumb on the line when you get ready to cast?”

“Yes!”

“Even after you set the bale?”

“Yes!”

“Let me see your rod.”

A few seconds of checking later, he informs you that there is waaaaaaay too much line on the reel, causing it to spang out in all directions when you cast out. The air, already somewhat blue with the cold mountain air, turns a shade or two bluer. I give up for the day; it is time to go home anyway.

At home my brother (he’s a super helpful dude always) unreels the line after I have de-tangled it once again, until he judges the right amount to be remaining on the reel. He mutters something about not needing to cast all the way to the other side of the lake and bites the line off from the unwound stuff, now itself a huge birdnest destined for disposal in an environmentally friendly way, and puts the weight back on the remaining line, but without a hook. Then we go out to the back lane by our house so I can practice casting down the road. (I caught some weeds; good size, too.)

Happy now, I:

1.) Grasp the rod in my casting hand and check to see if the sinker(the little lead weight) on the line has been reeled in but still dangling a little, maybe an inch or two from the tip of the rod,

2.) Hold the rod comfortably enough that I can press the line coming from the reel gently against the rod itself with my forefinger,  3.)Set the bale, which means flipping that little shiny metal pail-handle thingy on the reel over to the other side, and  4.) Raise the rod up, back a little and cast overhand.

–Upon which the whole blasted thing tangles at the tip of the rod. I try a couple more times. Tangle, tangle; those annoying little ones that are so hard to see to untangle. My brother comes out to the lane to see what I am doing wrong, for by the sound of my inarticulate mouth-noises alone he knows success is not yet mine.

That is when I realize the horror of a good rod. You can’t just cast it any old way at any old speed and have it do it’s job. A good fishing rod is sensitive at the tip. If you treat it rough, it treats the line the same way. I discovered that I had to be gentler, more deliberate in my overhead cast, to kind of slow down and tai chi the thing out.

Kim told me that when I release my forefinger from the line at the cast, to point that forefinger where I want the line to go, and it will kind of do it naturally. And you know what? It worked! My casting immediately smoothed out and the line started going where I wanted it to go, and further and further away, too. Now that I know I am dealing with a thoroughbred, as it were, I’m good to go. It no longer birdnests, it no longer ties a little knot at the tip of the reel.

There, there, girl, eeeeaaasssy now….

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