Some time ago I witnessed a social media pity-fest that was precipitated by someone blithely pointing out that he may actually be required to use the gifts of fishing-related paraphernalia that he had recently received for Father’s Day.
I imagined that I could hear many hundreds of anglers sucking in and holding their breath; frozen to the spot in abject horror.
More painful still, he explained cautiously (fearing for the credibility of his carefully crafted but entirely faux on-line persona), he was expected to fish in his new off-yellow tee shirt; the one with the picture of a – well, it’s hard to say what the fish is exactly, but it’s lying next to a tin of worms and an old floppy hat stuck full of lures. With voices joining the cacophony from all sides I lifted the cap from a bottle and watched as the orchestra grew to a frenzied crescendo before slowly burning out into a self-pitying, post-traumatic-stress induced heap.
It seems that when searching for gifts families are liable to pop into a local tackle store and return with a selection of items that are more gizmo-and-gadget than good-for-anything. I’ve spent a lot of time in retail we call this ‘redundant stock clearance’. We look to times when we can get rid of the crap that nobody who knows anything about anything is stupid enough to buy.
You know the stuff I’m talking about. You’ve been given your fair share of it. You open your gift and immediately the almost-imperceptible nerve at the corner of your eye starts to twitch. The instant your body language betrays you the familiar “the guy at the shop says you use it to…” explanation follows. You smile and look at it this way and that, turning it over in your hands and turning over in your mind what an adequately warm, kind and believable response will be. (This is an inhumane torture and can only be balanced by purchasing your wife a kitchen appliance for her birthday.)
Don’t ever say that you’ve always wanted whatever it is as everyone knows that you hit your target on your credit card (the banks naively call this target a ‘limit’) in that store every month and if you wanted one you’d own four of them already. No, no, you want to say something like how you’ve always seen these things in the magazines but that they are either sold out or they don’t stock them and that it’s great to see someone importing them at last. Stop there and smile. Smile a lot.
Mention that you’ll have to take it out to the garage for a good inspection later. But say no more than that. You’re not as sharp before your morning coffee as you think that you are and today you’re best having a second cup before wading into those treacherous waters.
In fairness, I’ve received some great gifts but if there’s a gift that I never want it’s flies. I’m not anal about my flies, hell I sometimes even fish those that come from my own vice, but I’m pretty picky over them.
When you’re given flies they’re normally in one of those presentation packs. There are twelve flies to a pack and each is a different pattern. One of the twelve you might even consider fishing, but only if it was half the size. And if its proportions were roughly right. And if you’d been fishing, blank, for four straight days and were more howlingly desperate than usual. (Four days is usual, you say?)
These packs are very specific and are named accordingly. The “Kamberg Valley Selection”. The “Sterkies Yellows Ensemble”. The “Dullstroom Dozen”.
The level of regional specialization of these flies is incredible and as a result I’m petrified to take them off the cardboard backing and put them in my fly box lest I confuse them.
The difference between the same bugs between two selections is vast. Clearly this is evidence of earnest academic focus and intense geographical and entomological study on the part of the guys who manufacture them. Imagine the embarrassment of casting a damselfly nymph from the Southern Berg Selection on an East Griqualand lake. At best it would be casting practice with xenophobic fish scattering in the wake of this foreign interloper. Even if you separated your fly boxes by region there is still the small matter of where the Southern Berg ends and East Griqualand begins. (My advice in this instance would be to fish both patterns, New Zealand style, thereby covering all of your bases – who said I couldn’t write ‘how-to’?)
At the time that I’m writing this Christmas is exactly two months away. You should have prepared early and thoroughly and I fear that by the time you read this it may already be too late. Be that as it may, I see myself as a problem solver and will continue to dispense my homespun wisdom in the faith that you will use it at some future time.
The obvious question is how to (to not put too fine a point on it) get what you want.
What you want to do is to gently herd your benefactors towards your prize by using psychology and persistence. Now I’m not suggesting that this will be good enough to ensure success but it will at least go some way to avoid the emotional carnage that is a loving family ripped apart by an injudicious (although thoroughly understandable) negative reaction to a well-intentioned gift.
Step 1: Take out a few back copies of this fine publication and flip through them in the company of your family. Make a show of it. Say things like “all the best stuff comes out just ahead of Christmas”.
Step 2: Periodically state out loud the manufacturer and name of the product that you covert. Repeat this information a few times, seemingly to yourself but loudly enough for everyone else to hear, in what dramatists call an ‘aside’. If anyone pays any attention throw them a treat (Pavlov knew his stuff).
Step 3: Reach over to show to your loved-ones photographs and specifications of the product that has met with your approval. Point out what retailers call ‘features and benefits’.
Step 4: Fumble around in various drawers for those post-it type notes. Make a big point of this. If you find them pretend to have not seen them (this is entirely believable behaviour). Mutter loudly and slam things around. Don’t stop until someone asks what you’re up to and offers assistance. Toss them a treat.
Step 5: Stick a post-it to the item. Hold up the page and point out that you so often get the wrong item at the tackle store and that this will remove all confusion. For safety’s sake you need to totally blank out every other product around it with a permanent marker. Don’t cross through them. X marks the spot and you can’t afford the risk.
Step 6: Leave the magazine open at the right page. Periodically move it around into different spots in the house. Make sure that they see it. When they do, reward them with a treat.
All that’s left to do now is to stand in front of a mirror practicing smiling and looking grateful.
Because, despite your best efforts, you know they’re going to mess it up.