2016-12-07 / Opinion

BACKROADS AND BOBTAILS

Sometimes It’s All About Image
by Bob Kornegay

My friends and sometimes fishing partners, Jake and Larry, were once seen backing a boat down a ramp into the Chattahoochee River without first unhooking the tie-downs from boat to trailer. Naturally, when the trailer and its still-secured cargo entered the water, the proverbial comedy of errors ensued. The hapless pair of anglers, in classic three-stooges minus-one fashion, just barely kept boat, trailer, and pickup truck from washing away in the relentless current.

“I believe you boys forgot to unhook them straps,” said an old man watching from the bank.

“Nah,” quick-thinking Jake answered. “We do this now and then just to check the tension on ‘em. Gas it, Larry. Get us back to the ramp.”

Even when they do make it onto the water without mishap, Jake and Larry are prone to angling glitches. Larry, for example, can backlash a simple fishing pole as badly as most of us can snarl a bait-casting reel. In fact, he spends a great deal of his fishing time unraveling monofilament, hooks, and bobbers from the end of his trusty old Breambuster. At such times, he gets a serious, perplexed look on his face and asks aloud, “Now how did that happen?”

Uncannily, never once has Jake or Larry been laughed at or ridiculed. On the contrary, they are looked upon with respect by all who observe each bumbling fiasco.

Why? Because they know the importance of the image an outdoorsman must always strive to project. They are ultimately skilled at hiding their frequent ineptitude beneath an expert-outdoorsman façade. To preserve that image, they simply disguise all in-the-field screw-ups with such statements as, “I meant to do that,” or “Something other than me caused all this to happen.”

Jake and Larry are my heroes. I want to be them when I grow up.

Then there is my friend Johnny. Johnny is a true outdoors expert and mentor who fishes well, hunts with great skill, and in general performs all sporting feats as if he were born to them. Johnny, by rights, should be my hero, but isn’t.

You see, Johnny knows absolutely nothing about image. Worse, he is also a paragon of honesty. He doesn’t believe in facades and insists that all he does, rightly or wrongly, stand on its own merits.

Utterly disgusting.

Once Johnny caught a trophy rainbow trout from an especially difficult stretch of mountain creek. As he modestly accepted the kudos of admirers, he foolishly admitted to tipping his dry fly with a tiny ball of white bread to entice the otherwise unwilling fish. Snobbish fly fishing purists were appalled, and Johnny was the brunt of their righteous wrath for weeks afterward.

A few years later, Johnny found a just-dead 12-pound largemouth bass and right off the bat told the whole world the truth, disavowing the fact that he’d actually “caught” the fish when he reached down and grabbed it.

Worse (I saw this with my own eyes), Johnny once ate a shore lunch of Mandarin oranges and sugar wafer cookies, much to the revulsion of fellow anglers who were consuming the traditional (image-enhancing) Vyeenees and crackers.

His lame excuse? “But I like them!”

The boy just doesn’t understand that often image is everything. Image-conscious anglers never, but never, admit cheating at fly fishing, hesitate to lie about their exploits, and ought to have the good sense to eat such things as Mandarin oranges and sugar wafers behind closed doors. For instance, put Jake and Larry in a similar scenario and that bass would now be mounted on the wall of one of their dens, complete with an embossed brass plate stating time, date, and place of “capture.”

Yep, much as I admire and appreciate Brother Johnny, I’m very put off by his what-you-see-is-what-you-get attitude. Give me the Jakes and Larrys of the world. They learned long ago that it’s a lot easier to “baffle ‘em with B.S.” rather than “dazzle ‘em with brilliance.”

Preserve the image, Brethren. It’s a proud heritage.

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