Tangled Up in Lures

I could hear the blue oaths rising from the caster as he or she pulled and pulled

    Walked out onto the rock reef in front of the trailer park again the other day at super low tide to visit the life in the pools — the little black snails called rosettes, calico crabs, the gardens of red and green weed. Every 20 feet or so, I’d find a surfcaster’s lure, still snagged since the last bass season on seaweed, or trapped in the cleft of a rock.

    I could hear the blue oaths rising from the caster as he or she pulled and pulled, walking their bent rods first to the left, then to the right, pulling and cursing the bottom as striped bass sashayed past the harmless hooks until the casters surrendered, cut their lines, and fumbled for the next barbed enticement.

    This got me thinking about lures in general: The dope peddler offering the first one for free, the dropped handkerchief, the Big Mac on a billboard.

    Two big fishing expos are coming up. The World Fishing and Outdoor Exposition starts today in Suffern, N.Y., and will run through Sunday. The Saltwater Fishing Expo runs from March 13 to 16 in Teaneck, N.J. I saw that one of the shows will feature a new lure that changes colors underwater.

    Of course, the expos, which display every conceivable gizmo for catching a fish, are themselves barbed enticements aimed at hooking those with a salty appetite, a fishing itch in need of scratching for months now.

    Without a knife, it took me a while to unsnag a bucktail whose hook was wrapped in monofilament attached to an even older lost lure — and so it goes.

    Look at us. The fishing aesthete who spends weeks wearing magnifying glasses to tie flies that will match the look of a moth floating down, by virtue of a thousand-dollar rod, upon a babbling brook to fool a trout. Then there’s the grunting hillbilly neck-deep and groping with his hands in the mud in search of a burrowed catfish.

    From a fish’s eye, we are all the same, aliens from outer space, just as we see them as creatures inhabiting an alien world. It must be thus, or it wouldn’t be fishing. What we can’t see and don’t understand becomes a mystery, and it’s the mystery of fish (on the most basic level, what is it that will attract them) that fishermen are driven to solve.

    Why doesn’t the rabbit hunter secrete a hook in a carrot, hide behind a tree, and then reel Bugs in after he takes the hook? I probably shouldn’t suggest this. Surely there’s someone out there who will turn it into sport.

    I’m again reminded of how Stuart Vorpahl, an East Hampton bayman and former town trustee, described the green pride of catch-and-release fishing. Stuart said it’s the same as putting a noose around a rabbit’s neck, lifting it off the ground until it’s almost dead, and then feeling saint-like as it limps away resurrected.

    The point is, we share the same environment with rabbits. We can see them. We let a beagle chase them in a circle, get them in our sights and pull the trigger. No mystery. No need to plumb the depths with a rattling, chicken-feathered, color-changing, treble-hooked Whizbang we pray will mimic a striped bass’s favorite dish.

    The bass are probably right about now looking up to see the sun climbing the latitudes. They are getting ready to migrate this way.

    The last lure I found was a beauty, a swimming plug, its color worn off, but streamlined with one rusted hook holding tenaciously to some bladderwrack. I think I’ll paint it, supply it with two new hooks, cast it to the wind, and pray it will catch a bass and not the bottom.