There are two kinds of fishermen: those who mean business, and those who merely look the part. In this way they're no different from ballplayers or politicians.
A couple of years ago, I was fishing with a friend along Southeast Tennessee's scenic Hiwassee River. We'd been doing pretty well when we encountered two guys loading their gear into a luxury SUV, apparently empty-handed.
(Don't get me wrong - I'm not gloating or feeling superior. I'd trade a string of trout for a new Lexus RX 350 any day.)
Anyway, these guys were outfitted like a couple of Eddie Bauer catalog models: felt-soled hip-waders, multi-pocketed fishing vests, floppy hats, expensive fly rods. In fact, they had everything the fashionable angler could want - except fish.
My buddy and I felt sorry for them - they looked so woebegone, after all, or maybe their waders were just too tight - so we showed them our string and confided we'd caught them on worms and crickets. We also shared with them (and I thought this was especially generous, since it's supposed to be a secret) that the locals use corn niblets.
Fact is, I once watched an old gentleman in overalls and a battered fedora jerk 12 good-sized rainbows out of the river in about 30 minutes, in between pulls on an equally battered steel flask. When I asked what kind of bait he was using, he squinted at me and said, "Corn." Then I asked him what he was drinking. Same answer.
Anyway, to get back to the two guys in the fancy SUV, the way they looked at us you'd have thought we'd just spit in their lattes. It was the kind of haughty, disdainful look Marxist college professors reserve for students naive enough to admit they believe in God.
"Corn?" one of them finally managed to snort derisively. "Where's the sport in that?"
Ah, yes. Sport. And here I thought the point was to catch fish.
As an interesting postscript, a few weeks later my then-9-year-old caught several nice brook trout in the same spot where those two extras from "A River Runs Though It" failed so sportingly. And he wasn't wearing hip waders or anything made out of nylon webbing.
In fact, he didn't even have a fly rod, just a $19.95 Zebco junior spin-casting combo from Walmart and a $1.98 carton of night crawlers that we picked up at Webb Bros. Bait Shop and Gas Station in Reliance, Tenn. How he ever managed to enjoy himself, I'll never know.
I mention all this because we're headed back up to the Hiwassee next week, where my sons and I might get a chance to do a little more fishing. My youngest still has his Zebco, and I still don't drive a Lexus, but I'm considering a serious upgrade.
Now where did I put that Eddie Bauer catalog?
Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.