If you’re an angler, you’re almost constantly bombarded with jargon that would challenge the quirky vernacular of any truck driver or medical professional.
Last week I was talking with a friend who’s almost as good an angler as he thinks he is, which is to say he’s very good, but where he really excels is in the jargon. He can rattle off more soft plastic rigging methods, more off-the-wall color patterns from tiny manufacturing outfits and more unpronounceable reel product lines than just about anyone I know.
To make matters worse, he talks fast, so this litany of piscatorial obscura was coming too fast for me to keep up. I remember momentarily losing my place in our conversation as I was quietly praying for him to stop talking. I wondered if he was still speaking English or had wandered into another tongue that better served his purpose.
Ultimately, I just kept nodding. Nodding as he referenced the Neko rig. Nodding as he mentioned the Ned rig. Nodding as he talked about a few others I know and have used.
But then I kept right on nodding when he said some names I’ve never heard of, traced their origin to a remote settlement in New Guinea and credited the tribes’ sustenance to a technique that was developed by anglers who practice cannibalism in their non-fishing hours.
At least, that’s what I think he said. I was mostly tuning him out by then.
It reminded me of just how esoteric our sport can be among those who are serious about it. And it reminded me of how daunting it must be for beginners or casual anglers.
I love talking about fishing. It’s one of the reasons I chose a career in our industry. When I get around other people who take it seriously and who have devoted their lives to it, I cherish those times.
But eventually I come back to the real world — to my family or friends who don’t care so much about fishing. I must sound like an extra-terrestrial to them. I have no desire to create a language or conversation gap between me and them, but it’s there.
And I see it in tackle shops more often that I care to admit. I see shop owners or staff talking to novice customers and throwing the jargon around like it’s stuff everyone knows.
Well, it’s not … and they don’t. And even if they get into our sport, it might take years after they’re walking the walk for them to talk the talk.
For those of us who are completely immersed in the world of fish and fishing, it’s important that we come up for air sometimes. We need to speak the language of other people and talk with them instead of at them … especially when we’re having a conversation about fishing.
After all, how are they going to find out how great fishing is unless we tell and then show them? How will they understand if we don’t speak their language?