One Man's Treasure
by Dave Micus
veryone has a novel in them, the old adage goes, "and that's exactly where it should stay." I think the same is true of fly-fishing inventions. Fly fishers tend to get immersed in the sport, both literally and figuratively, and when you spend a lot of time, money and effort on something it is only natural to expect some sort of return. I'm not just referring to the fishing experience, return enough, but the feeling that "if I could just come up with a novel idea for a piece of fishing gear I'd be able to make a lot of money." And fish full time.
Your average angler doesn't have the wherewithal to invent a new rod or reel, so, when we do invent something it tends to be an accessory, and we avoid the most fundamental step in formulating a business plan, a needs analysis. If you would simply heft your fly fishing vest you would quickly realize that every accessory necessary, and a hell of a lot that aren't, has already been conceived and birthed. But that still doesn't stop some from pursing the dream of fishing independence, as an unscientific survey of a recent issue of a popular fly-fishing magazine shows.
Not far into the magazine is an advertisement for the "fly box," a modular component system of trays and drawers that you wear on your chest and allows you to carry every fly invented since Dame Juliana's Jury of Twelve. It is an awkward looking thing that encourages the fly fisher to carry more, insidious marketing as it preys on that inherent paranoia of every fly angler that, no matter how many flies he brings along, he just won't have the right one. From the looks of the fly box, you wouldn't want to take a fall in the stream with this thing on, as I doubt you'd be able to right yourself, and, adding insult to injury, with just a few blinking lights the wearer would look like a robot from a 1950s Sci-fi flick.
At the opposite end of this spectrum is the lanyard, geared toward the minimalist who wants to carry all of his accessories around his neck. I can't imagine that an angler could carry all of his paraphernalia-nippers, spare leader material, forceps, flashlight, camera, hook hone, flies, etc.-on a lanyard unless he had a neck the size of Warren Sapp's. But what is truly astonishing about the lanyard is its price; $27.95 for something you could easily make with a shoelace, some shrink tube, and a couple of swivels.
My favorite, though, is an ad for a quick release leather thumb, a small leather case hooked to a zinger and attached to your pants that you "just guide your thumb into…then to the fish's mouth" to hold the fish while you disengage the hook. You don't need this protection with most fish, and the ones you would, blue fish, barracuda, shark, etc., would bite your thumb clean off, leather case or no. And, similar to the lanyard, if you did feel a need for a leather thumb you could easily make your own by buying a pair of leather gloves, cutting off the thumb and hooking it to a zinger (and you'd even end up with a spare). But, most disturbing, the thing looks vaguely obscene, like a codpiece or prophylactic.
I'm beginning to think that these inventions would make for an interesting collection. For example, I wish I had bought the hat vest, a baseball cap advertised a few years back with pockets and snaps that would allow the minimalist to shed his vest and carry all of his gear on his head. It has apparently gone the way of the shag carpet and Newt Gingrich, and it's no wonder; the hat vest empty looked ridiculous, with the pockets filled the wearer looked like a bizarre cubist painting.
Perhaps the American Fly Fishing Museum should start a fund raising campaign to add a new wing, displaying these arcane inventions so they aren't lost to posterity (and reinvented in the future). A sub-strata of the collection could be ridiculously over-priced items, such as $135 pliers. I'd wager it would be the most popular exhibit in the Museum.
"The vagaries of the sport," wrote Russell Chatham, "occasionally demand acknowledgement of a wide range of patent absurdities."
Not to mention patented absurdities…
Dave Micus lived in Ipswich, Massachusetts where he was an avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer, instructor and "star" of an episode of the outdoor show, Fly Fishing America. In 2006 he made the move from sea level to the Rocky Mountains of Montana where he has taken up fly rodding for trout, hunting and enjoying life in the "Big Country."
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