Column: Aggressive gear takes romance out of fishing

Great Outdoors by James Murray

You know you’re getting old when fishing lures that you used when you were a kid are now considered collectible antiques. The other day I found myself admiring some of the old plugs and lures that I have on display in a china cabinet in my living room. I remember, as a kid, rifling through my father’s tackle box and sort of helping myself to a number of those old wooden plugs. I also remembered all the times we used to sit out in the boat fishing. I can still hear the sound of water lapping against the hull of the boat. I remember listening and laughing at all my father’s dumb jokes. Life was a lot simpler.

When I look at all that old fishing stuff, I cannot help but think just how much fishing tackle itself has changed over the years. Cane rods have been replaced by ultra high modulus graphite rods. Instead of hardware store Pfluegers, I now own hand-crafted, machined aluminum reels that cost more than a good number of the vehicles I have owned. Gone are the wooden plugs with their glass eyes. Gone too are lures with names like Chubb Creek Minnow and flies like the Lady Amhurst and Silver Doctor. We now have Killer Crank Baits, Buzz Bombs and Hawg-busters. When an angler goes fishing now, it’s almost as if they are at war with nature itself. Electronic fish finders and GPS’s (Global Positioning Systems) have made the sport of fishing into serious business.

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I do have to admit thought that I enjoy using all my newer modern graphite rods. They are much lighter and easier to cast than the old fiberglass or cane rods. Today’s fluorocarbon lines and leaders are thinner, stronger and almost invisible to fish in the water. Computer designed lures too seem more effective, if for no other reason than they probably annoy fish into striking, and modern fly tying materials now give an almost life-like quality to any imitation fly pattern.

Maybe it’s just me, but somehow there just doesn’t seem to be enough of the old romantic tradition left in fishing. I mean, catching a bright shiny rainbow trout on a piece of muti-coloured fluorescent painted plastic with a name like Trout Killer stamped on the side of it, well, it just not the same.

I guess that’s why I continue to collect the old stuff and use the new high-tech stuff.

Including all the lures that I pilfered from my father’s tackle box, I guess I’ve been collecting antique fishing gear for well over 50 years now. I’ve managed to put together a fair collection of old lures as well as dozens of steel and cane rods. I like to think that by collecting such artifacts, I am in a way, helping to preserve sport fishing history.

Fishing was a part of my growing up, a part of who I am. Maybe that’s why it annoys me so much when I see ads in the back of Canadian fishing magazines from some big fishing outfit down in Virginia or somewhere wanting to buy old fishing gear. I just don’t think we should be selling off our history.

When I’m going through and handling some of the old piscatory paraphernalia that I’ve collected over the years, I cannot help but admire the craftsmanship and attention to detail on some of those old plugs and lures. I am often amazed at the creative lengths to which some earlier anglers went to in order to catch a fish.

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Every now and then I am tempted to take one of those old glass-eyed lures, a steel casting rod with a Shakespeare President level wind reel and try my luck. To sort of go back in time to when fishing was a bit simpler. The only problem is that I wouldn’t want to lose a piece of history by having a fish break my line or snagging up on a rock or branch on the bottom.

However, some day, when my tired old legs are too weary to get me into some of the lakes and streams I have fished the past 60 years or so, I will be able to look back and know I was part of an era. Not one of plastic, but rather one of craftsmanship. In a way I am a part of sport fishing history.


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