SI Vault
Michael Baughman
March 23, 1981
The most common arguments that fly-fishermen use to promote their sport are that fly-casting is esthetically superior to any other form of angling and, therefore, more enjoyable, and that when a fish is hooked in the lip—as opposed to having taken a bait hook into its stomach—it may easily be released to fight again another day. These are valid points, but, in my opinion, there is another good reason for switching from a spinning or bait rod to a fly rod, and that is the relative cheapness of fly-fishing. Though the sport is thought by many to be the preserve of wealthy gentlemen who take periodic jaunts to Norway or Iceland for Atlantic salmon and to New Zealand for huge trout, the truth is that the vast majority of us fly-fishermen angle in waters within driving distance of our homes and that casting flies saves us money. A dozen years ago I could afford to fish only once a week because on every trip I would leave as much as $10 worth of spoons and spinners snagged on rocks on the bottom of the river. Now, having learned to tie my own flies, I can fish every day if I choose to.
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March 23, 1981

A Skunked Fisherman Finds The Aura Of Defeat Hanging Heavily Upon Him

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A few miles farther along I came to a Forest Service campground, which at that time of the year was deserted. In the rest room I undressed, kicked my clothes into a pile in the corner, opened all six cans of tomato juice—twelve quarts—and bathed myself thoroughly, slowly emptying each can over my head, then rubbing the juice in carefully as it flowed down over my body. It was cool and rather thick. The sweetish smell certainly didn't eliminate the skunk odor, but at least it mixed with it to create something different and possibly a little less repulsive.

I wanted to give the juice a chance to do as much as it could, so I let it dry, hopping up and down on the tile floor to warm myself. In a few minutes, when the juice had become a very uncomfortably sticky coating, I went to a sink to wash myself. There wasn't any water. I tried all the sinks, but there was nary a drop. Apparently the water was shut off, except during the summer camping season. So I dressed as I was and returned to the car, hoping above all—praying, in fact—that I wouldn't run into anybody. I must have looked like something from a Japanese horror movie, and the odor, though somewhat altered, hadn't really diminished at all.

It was a long drive home. I hit the freeway half an hour after my juice bath. By then the sun was down and the night air was so cool I had to roll the windows up and use the heater. That made the smell impossible to take, so I stopped at a deserted rest area, took everything off but my undershorts. and dropped my jeans, shirt and a $50 pair of boots into a garbage can. The boots smelled worse than anything else, I think.

I was very careful to obey the speed limit after that, for Lord knows what summary action a state trooper might have taken if he had stopped a foul-smelling man coated from head to foot with tomato juice and wearing only undershorts.

Finally, about 20 minutes from my house, my right rear tire went flat and I coasted to the shoulder of the road. After a few seconds of hollow-stomached panic. I realized that I could wear my chest waders to change the tire.

A number of cars slowed as they went by. One large, brightly painted van nearly stopped beside me. It was full of teenagers. "Far out!" one of them yelled at me. "Weirdo!" screamed another. I heard them all laughing as the van sped away.

I changed the tire and made it home. My family was understanding, but it took a couple of days and more than a couple of baths before my life returned to normal. I could eat at the dinner table once again, and the dog stopped backing off at my approach.

If all this had happened to Aesop and he had wanted to write a fable about it. the moral would be clear enough: When tying streamer flies, bucktail will surely do.

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