A couple of weekends ago, my beloved and I went on a double date with my fishin’ buddy Sean and his beautiful bride, Sarah. Although there were many recreational/entertainment options available to us, the oppressive heat quickly made retreat to the air-conditioned comfort of the local multiplex the best choice out of the bunch.
Once there, I didn’t have to twist any arms too hard to convince the other three members of my party to check out the latest installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, “On Stranger Tides”.
Say what you will, but I make no apologies for liking these movies. In fact, I will go so far as to say that the Pirates ride at Disneyland was a powerful spark that ignited a certain land-locked barrio boy’s life-long interest in maritime history, things nautical, marine biology and, of course, pirate history (even before it was a fashionable interest).
So as the house lights dimmed and I used the cover of darkness to grab an extra handful of popcorn from my wife’s bucket, (…We pillage, we plunder, we rifle and loot. Drink up me hearties, yo ho…) imagine my momentary mood squash when, instead of tall ships and clanging cutlasses we were confronted with Stetsons and horses and six-shooters and … spaceships. Yeah, that’s right, the first images on the silver screen in front of us were from a trailer for a movie called Cowboys and Aliens. It’s a sci-fi/western thing with grizzled trail riders in spurs taking on extraterrestrial creatures in gleaming high-tech space craft.
Talk about a “huh?” moment.
Such odd pairings in the physical realm are sometimes called “ooparts” which stands for “out-of-place-artifacts”. Things like modern hammers found in allegedly untouched coal seams, battery-like devices amongst the items within ancient tombs, ancient pottery with images of people interacting with dinosaurs– those are “ooparts”.
Cowboys taking on aliens is, of course, not an out-of-place artifact but it is certainly an out-of-place concept (“oopcept”, to put a twist on the phrase); which is probably the whole point. It’s an idea that is just out there enough that you want to see how things play out. It’s one thing for the original Terminator to take on the new upgraded T-1000 model. It’s another to watch saddle weary cowpokes use Smith & Wessons to battle beings with the ability and gear to travel across the vast reaches of space.
Deep down, we all like “oopart/oopcept” stuff. It makes us feel like we are in on the joke.
Which got me to thinking (but only after watching and thoroughly enjoying the Pirates movie) “oopcept” sort of sums up the idea of urban flyfishing for many people. For most folks who have never touched a fly rod, seeing someone using fly gear, popularly associated with trout fishing on wild mountain streams, in urban ponds and lakes, not typically considered fishable, just seems odd. It’s an “out-of-place-concept”.
So be it. Let it be a point of bafflement for the general public. Let it be an “oopcept” idea for the masses but for those who practice it, it works and it works well.
What happens when you have an “oopcept” urban fly guy hitting an urban pond and he comes across an “oopart” fish in said pond?
Let me ‘splain what I mean. A couple of days after the double date night with our brides, Sean and I snuck off for some twilight urban fly fishin’ and while we are working a particular pond I noticed a very unusual shape cruising in the shallows and making the water roil every now and then. Now, I’ve seen plenty of bass, carp, sunfish, koi, goldfish, crappie, catfish, and even tilapia with all manner of deformities and doing all kinds of crazy things in urban waters but this fish didn’t match any of ‘em.
So, I reeled in my line and stepped back far enough to prevent my shadow from hitting the water and then I just stood there. After a few moments, the strange shaped fish cruised back into the shallows and made some half-hearted lunges at the small sunfish hovering around an aquatic weed.
I ran through the mental rolodex at least twice before it dawned on me that I was looking at a roughly eighteen-inch long gar, probably a smallish alligator gar to be more precise. Then I remembered that Sean had said something about a rumor of an unusual fish having shown up in this particular piece of water.
Which was kinda cool, except that … we don’t have gar in SoCal – an “oopart” moment, for sure.
Not that I have anything against gar. In their native habitat they are top of the food chain predators and, depending upon the species, can grow to several hundred pounds. In their home territory they are highly prized gamefish and certainly an interesting, worthy and respectable fish by any account.
The problem is that SoCal is not their native habitat. This particular gar was a couple thousand miles too far west and/or a couple of latitudes too far north.
Now, I know that virtually every species in the ponds and urban lakes of SoCal is a non-native transplant or genetically modified mutant. For that matter, the majority of ponds and lakes in urban SoCal are freakish aberrations of the term “lake” and most didn’t even exist in their present form until relatively recent times and then often with huge, unintended impacts on the natural setting. From a purist’s perspective, urban SoCal is an ecological trainwreck.
Still, there is a fragile (often frighteningly fragile) and noticeable balance in our urban waters and the introduction of such a fish into a relatively small body of water had the potential to seriously throw a wrench into the works.
My goal instantly became to get that gar (and possibly any other recent introductions) out of that lake before a precious and prized fishin’ hole tipped out of balance and become just a wet low spot in the middle of a grassy field.
Fortunately, many in the local and loosely affiliated fishing fraternity felt the same way and over the next couple of days much energy was expended and tons of hardware thrown, pitched, reeled and twitched across that particular puddle.
Then on a Thursday night, after I had finished all my work related stuff for the day and was seriously contemplating another twilight gar-fishing trip, I got word from Sean that local rod-slinger, J_____ had finally taken the gar on one of his hand made balsa wood crank baits.
Sure enough, grainy, low-light photos were soon blazing across cyber space offering proof that the common “threat” had been eliminated.
Yet, there was no euphoria or giddiness over this victory. It just seemed wrong to celebrate the demise, however prudent, of a magnificent creature such as this gar, especially since it had ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time due to someone’s carelessness, thoughtlessness or twisted sense of humor.
The knucklehead who dumped or planted that particular fish in that particular place hadn’t done it or anyone else any favors.
Sometimes “oopart” isn’t interesting, it’s just dumb.
Still, when all was said and done, I had to admire the spirit of cooperation (competition?) from the local urban fishing community (which many would describe as a very pirate like sub-culture anyway). A bunch of widely divergent guys, with widely divergent fishing styles and tactics had momentarily formed a loose alliance to tackle a common problem.
“…We’re rascals, scoundrels, villains, and knaves.? Drink up me hearties, yo ho …”
I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.
Switch to our mobile site