Matters finally came to a head when the fisherman on duty was a colonel, USMC (ret). He had fished according to the code in troubled waters from Saigon to Santo Domingo. At our pool he tried his okapi lures, purple grackle hackles, things that looked like rabbits' feet and objects crafted by witch doctors. In desperation he tried canned corn, cheese niblets and pickled salmon eggs. But though he was forced to stand back a good distance from the pool to keep from getting splashed by the trout that were cavorting through my dace nets, the colonel could not catch a fish. The obvious difficulty—beyond the fact that the colonel's tackle, like all that of most modern fishing purists, was designed not to catch fish—was that the trout had grown accustomed to bread. Even a fish is not so stupid as to want to take a piece of dead okapi when, if he hangs around for awhile, he is sure of getting a few nibbles of Mother Slonaker's finest. When it was suggested that the colonel try a little Vitamin Enriched, he refused rather stiffly. "There are some things a fisherman will not do," he said, standing tall and proud.
Being a freethinking fisherman who will try anything, I borrowed the colonel's flimsy rod, only to find out that, while bread bait may not be immoral, it was in this case impractical. Mother Slonaker's loaf was so creamy good that it simply melted off the hook, and the trout would gobble it up as it drifted toward the bottom of the pool. At this point a conventional fisherman would have given up, but not an iconoclast with a fish crow to feed. Looking around for a bread substitute, I could hardly fail to see the piles of cigarette butts with which the colonel, while nervously dueling the trout, had littered the bank of the pool, Fortunately, he smoked Brand X, a filtered fag, suitably safe and masculine for a marine. Breaking off a firm, fibrous, buoyant filter, I put it on the hook and threw it in the water. A rainbow immediately rose, trout-lipped the butt, swallowed it and was pulled out on the grass.
"Throw that #$%)&+ fish back in the %$&+$&% water," bellowed the colonel, reverting in his shock to his Parris Island manners. He looked as if he might explode.
"Put it back? I'm trying to get them out of here," I said.
"You," the colonel said coldly, as if dealing with some dirty Comsymp, "took that trout on a cigarette."
It was, I believe, my finest fishing hour. I felt I was compleat, and I now saw myself for what I truly am, a prophet scorned, who nonetheless will lead the Fishing Establishment kicking and screaming into the bright promise of the post-Walton world.