Fish wrap

2021 is not the year to cut back on the parts and pieces which help us find fish. 

 

Winter, finally, is wood stove cold. Boats of all sizes are wrapped in slinky white  blankets while Monahan’s Pier rests without echoes of Narragansett Surfcasters’ salty tall tales. Seasoned anglers know all that means it’s time: we must respect our proximity to Spring with inevitable tasks of reorganizing and worse, purging some fishing gear. Into basements, chilly garages and spare rooms we must trudge to perform one act or the other; reducing such clutter as four seasons of fishing might amass or organizing assortments and attachments into plastic collectors with painters tape labels to rebuild a comfort level of lure and line security. Purging is neither easy nor quick. Cold beverages or room temperature brown liquids served with a single ice cube may increase motivations to reduce but they may also fog our resolution to simplify. 

“My brother Keith calls me a lure pirate,” said angler Jason Anctil. “I do my very best to keep the economy going by buying fishing gear. Every season I start with the bare minimum in my boat, but within a few trips, my boat is overflowing with more gear and then some more from our local bait shops.”

Writer and occasional fisherman E.B. White once noticed, “It is not possible to keep abreast of the normal tides of acquisition. I have no sharp taste for acquiring things, but it is not necessary to desire things in order to acquire them.” Clearly gear finds us, often too weak to refuse such sharp things shiny, wobbly or jointed, sinking, swimming or jigging, until winter’s clarity calls us to reckon with how much we have accumulated and small voices ask us to compare our acquisitions to available space in the bare light of necessity. With much experience, it’s clear organizing and purging fall into a clear categories.

“Absolutely.” Regardless of condition or years of successes, certain gear remains essential, despite newer technologies, shinier paints or wee hours infomercials guaranteeing life-like everything designs. These are proven and not maligned by annual “improvements” such as those which lead to the demise of original Doc lures. Save for a best quality print of Dogs Playing Poker, nothing would be worth trading away these favorites which always produce. 

“Potentially.” Even the poorest quality imported plastic baitfish imitation or random lure of unknown origin announces some magic siren of potential energy. A wobbling, scratched, bruised, cracked but still clanking diving crankbait holding a mere fraction of its critical nose, picked from a gravel parking lot years ago landed me a fine false albacore so therefore, only one such memory justifies saving similar oddities. All of them.

“Every winter I plan on getting more organized but instead I go fishing.” That’s how Jason Anctil keeps his tackle boxes full and ready for any potential situation. Sort of. This category also includes support materials like hooks, swivels, snaps, lead weights in coffee cans, three ways and sliding weight holders for fish finder rigs and bottom bashing tautog setups that we just must have, even when their gleam has worn off. How many scratched, tarnished Hopkins tins can we justify hoarding since most exist in a state of increasing patina and declining usefulness? Rusted or seized tight to old leader, they still beckon to be held safe in sliding plastic trays in case sports with yellow license plates clean out our tackle shops. Overcoming potential energy, that electric charge reminding us of that singular afternoon when we caught a keeper or even anything at all, is a Herculean task.

“Eventually.” Our collective excuse for keeping ugly broken back swimmers, gifted ornamental Creek Chub replicas and stiff black rubber worms with twisted chrome blades is easily debunked by space conscious partners but we also can easily create opportunity to add them to the team. Hooks never tied, teasers never added, scents never applied, tools never used all retain power. It’s all about power. Inevitably there will be a trip when we reach for that one item we just disposed of after years of dust collecting, even though we knew this day would come. That’s a lousy place to be.

“Probably.” Under pressure, this assortment is hard to justify. Unused, unpackaged, unclassified even for water fresh or salt, certain lures remain simply for their possibility to fill a niche but their lifeline is weak at best, especially under some scrutiny. This is a last chance defense.

“Possibly.” This final category preserves the tired, twisted and poorly purchased. Aaron Flynn, one of South County’s best largemouth fishermen said, “I have packs and packs of Zoom lizards that I never use. I bought them when I first started fishing, and just can’t part with them yet!” Point made. One odd change of tide or turn from southwest breeze to southeast might require switching from olive to chartreuse or yellow to bone so we simply can never have enough tackle. The pain of failing to pack a favored ivory stick bait due to rusty hardware or deep teeth scratches when the crew is catching will linger for months. All that justifies more gear purchases, of course. 

Purging stings but organizing is cathartic, restoring balance to tackle boxes and plans for a new year on the water. We all need that. Spring is a mere three months down the calendar so our focus now should be on improving our “possiblies” to “absolutelies” with enough practiced defenses to protect even the cheap Chinese Creek Chub imitations. Because you just never know…

Todd Corayer is a lifelong fisherman who lives not far from Rhode Island’s Saugatucket River with his wife, who supports his fishing mainly to get him out of the house and a young son who consistently catches more fish than him. You can read more about how to catch fish in New England at www.fishwrapwriter.com.

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