Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The Aesthetics of Worm Fishing
I've gone fishing all my life, yet even after all these years, somewhere in the recesses of my mind something still goes "Ick!" whenever I have to put a worm on a hook.
Poor worms. As stupid and ugly as snakes, but without that creature's hypnotic grace, they are doomed to slither through the soil thanklessly aerating the roots of plants. How slow and peaceful their lives must have been before the first man or woman discovered that nearly all freshwater fish consider worms to be the waterworld's equivalent of filet mignon.
Before you put a worm on a hook, obviously it is necessary to acquire some. If there is plenty of time, go out any summer night with a flashlight and gather them right off your front lawn. This method is especially popular among children who have no money.
Otherwise, go to any bait shop or outdoorsman's store and buy them. Years ago it was possible to go to any body of water and be sure of finding in the immediate area some little bait shop, usually run out of somebody's garage. Now its rare to find those backwoods worm farms. Over ten years ago the professional bait shops teamed up and successfully lobbied the legislature to forbid the selling of bait without meeting certain regulations. The cost of meeting those regulations put most of the backyard worm farms out of business. Shortly afterwards, by an odd coincidence the price of a dozen worms doubled.
A dozen worms typically comes in a nice white styrofoam cup with a plastic lid. This is more convenient than having to bring your own coffee can filled with dirt that the backyard sellers used to require. The disadvantage is that now every body of water that is frequently fished has the whole shoreline littered with styrofoam containers and plastic lids. Ecologically speaking, these are not predicted to decompose until (in descending order of probability) the sun turns purple, the law of gravity is repealed or the State of Massachusetts elects an honest legislature.
Wherever the worm comes from, the process of putting one on your hook is really quite simple. Take a worm out of the cup and let it sit in the palm of your hand. See how it squirms and struggles. It is frightened to be removed from its dark world of moist dirt. Worms don't like light, but your worm is soon to discover that there are a great many worse things it doesn't like.
It's a waste of money to put a whole worm on the hook, since fish will be attracted to a worm half the size that they usually are when full grown. Pick the worm up by its middle and position it between your thumb and index finger. Squeeze tightly, utilizing your fingernail like a razor. Try to ignore any soft squishing sounds as the worm's internal organs rupture as the worm splits in two. Notice that both halves of the worm are still alive. Keep one half and return the other to the styrofoam cup. It's a good idea to keep an old rag handy for wiping off worm guts after completing this step.
Next, take the hook in one hand and the worm in the other. Carefully position the middle of the worm over the hook. Then firmly press the worm's squirming body against the hook's point, burying it deep into the worm's soft flesh until the hook emerges slimy with blood out of the other side of the worm's body. Yet this may not be sufficient. Should a fish bite only one end of the worm, than it may be snapped in two, allowing the fish to escape. Never invite a fish to dinner and then allow it to eat and run! This can be avoided by passing the hook through the worm one more time in a different part of its body. Be careful though to position the worm far enough down the hook so that in its agonized thrashing it doesn't cause the hook itself to be obscured.
Now cast your line. Observe as the terrified worm goes flying through the air and comes splashing down in the water. Unseen, the worm will sink to the murky bottom of the pond or river. In a hysterical frenzy after having been squeezed in two, twice impaled, hurtled through air and now drowning, it will soon commence twisting and thrashing. Hopefully these agonized death throes will attract the attention of a nearby bass or trout.
After a short while, if no fish bite, reel the worm in and cast again. Repeat this until either a fish gets your hook stuck in its throat or the worm dies. Worms are very hardy creatures however, and they can endure for as long as a half hour before expiring.
At the end of the day, depending on how the fish were biting, there may be a few worms left that were never used. These can be saved for another day, but if there's no way to predict when you might use them, then it may be best just to let them go. I throw mine into the woods, where presumably they burrow themselves into the ground and begin new lives in the wild. I like to think that they live happily ever after.
The returns are in for Amherst's town election and apparently virtue triumphed. As near as I can figure, a husband and wife serving on the board of selectpersons have been messing up with all their ultra-liberal views, and so the husband was ousted yesterday by a fiscal moderate. This is seen as good news, since a round of property tax increases seems possible. And that is my profound analysis of the election results.