Author, journalist, fly fisherman, and political satirist P. J. O’Rourke passed away last year on February 15th.
“also brought home a set of fly-fishing how-to videotapes. This is the eighties, I reasoned, the age of video. What better way to take up a sport than from a comfortable armchair? That’s where I’m at my best with most sports anyway. There were three tapes. The first one claimed it would teach me to cast. The second would teach me to “advanced cast.” And the third would tell me where trout live, how they spend their weekends, and what they’d order for lunch if there were underwater delicatessens for fish. I started the VCR and a squeaky little guy with an earnest manner and a double-funny hat came on, began heaving fly line around, telling me the secret to making beautiful casting loops is … Whoever made these tapes apparently assumed I knew how to tie backing to reel and line to backing and leader to line and so on all the way out to the little feather and fuzz fish snack at the end. I didn’t know how to put my rod together. I had to go to the children’s section at the public library and check out My Big Book of Fishing and begin with how to open the package it all came in. A triple granny got things started on the spool. After twelve hours and help from pop rivets and a tube of Krazy Glue, I managed an Albright knot between backing and line. But my version of a nail knot in the leader put Mr. Gordian of ancient Greek knot fame strictly on the shelf. It was the size of a hamster and resembled one of the Woolly Bugger flies I’d bought except in the size you use for killer whales. I don’t want to talk about blood knots and tippets. There I was with two pieces of invisible plastic, trying to use fingers the size of a man’s thumb while holding a magnifying glass and a Tensor lamp between my teeth and gripping nasty tangles of monofilament with each big toe. My girlfriend had to come over and cut me out of this with pinking shears. Personally, I’m going to get one of those nine-year-old Persian kids that they use to make incredibly tiny knots in fine Bukhara rugs and just take him with me on all my fishing trips.”
“also watched the advanced tape. But Squeaky had gone grad school on me. He’s throwing reach casts, curve casts, roll casts, steeple casts, and casts he calls squiggles and stutters. He’s writing his name with the line in the air. He’s making his dry fly look like the Blue Angels. He’s pitching things forehand, backhand, and between his wader legs. And, through the magic of video editing, every time his hook-tipped dust kitty hits the water he lands a trout the size of a canoe. The videotape about trout themselves wasn’t much use either. It’s hard to get excited about where trout feed when you know that the only way you’re going to be able to get a fly to that place is by throwing your fly box at it. I must say, however, all the tapes were informative. “Nymphs and streamers” are not, as it turns out, naked mythological girls decorating the high school gym with crepe paper. And I learned that the part of fly-fishing I’m going to be best at is naming the flies: Woolly Hatcatcher Blue-Wing Earsnag Overhanging Brush Muddler Royal Toyota Hatchback O’Rourke’s Ouchtail P.J.’s Live Worm-’n-Bobber By now I’d reached what I think they call a “learning plateau.” That is, if I was going to catch a fish with a fly rod, I had to either go get in the water or open the fridge and toss hooks at Mrs. Paul’s frozen.”
“And what does the truly sophisticated dry fly artist do when he finally bags a fish? He lets the fool thing go and eats baloney sandwiches instead. On the other hand, fly-fishing did have its attractions. I love to waste time and money. I had ways to do this most of the year—hunting, skiing, renting summer houses in To-Hell-and-Gone Harbor for a Lebanon hostage’s ransom. But, come spring, I was limited to cleaning up the yard. Even with a new Toro every two years and a lot of naps by the compost heap, it’s hard to waste much time and money doing this. And then there’s the gear needed for fly-fishing. I’m a sucker for anything that requires more equipment than I have sense. My workshop is furnished with the full panoply of Black & Decker power tools, all from one closet shelf I installed in 1979.”
“Tuna are deadweight when you’re reeling them and torpedoes when you aren’t. One moment of inattention, and your line is headed for Cuba. And, when you finally do get the tuna to where it can be gaffed, it shakes its head back and forth like a girl meeting William Kennedy Smith in a bar and dives, going for the bottom faster than T-bill yields.”
One thought on “P.J. O’Rourke Thrown Under the Omnibus Quotes”
A particular P.J.O. favourite of mine is –
Holidays in Hell: In Which Our Intrepid Reporter Travels to the World’s Worst Places and Asks, “What’s Funny About This” (O’Rourke, P. J.)
– having been on a few of them (usually the Paradise- / big fish- / Self-seeking Westerners, not the locals) myself over the years.