If Not for the Buzzbait

If not for the buzzbait, I’d probably be one of those “fly-or-die” purists who dismisses conventional fishing tackle as the bellwether of knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers, incapable of comprehending the pursuit in which they are actively engaged.

After all, fly fishing is an intellectual endeavor. A craftsman’s game. A quiet thing to be practiced at dawn, mist rising from a picturesque stream. I could easily find myself there, decked out in a month’s salary of fly gear, chasing finger-length native brook trout. I could be content in my surety that there is only one true way. A perfectly placed roll cast and a size 22 bead head nymph: the epicenter of fairy wand nirvana.

If not for the buzzbait, therefore go I.

Throwing a buzzbait scratches the same itch that pump action shotguns, driving fast on gravel roads, and the first three chords of Black Sabbath’s Black Sabbath satisfy. The rusty clank and clack of a buzzbait churning across the surface of a glassy lake brings the world into sharp focus. Or rather, blurs the edges so that nothing else matters. Petty squabbles. Messages and mailboxes. Collection notices and other thinly veiled threats cease to exist. Only the buzzbait remains.

A bass will sometimes sip a buzzbait from the water as gently as a stocker rainbow taking a dry fly. Other times they simply destroy. The thrill of watching a chasing fish kick off from the edge, wake in tow, is intoxicating.

There is no analog in the fly fisherman’s box. Poppers and gurglers are pale competitors. It would be like comparing an umbrella to a Stuka dive bomber. Suburban London is acquainted with both. Ask them, if you must, if the Old Timers still remember the whistling terror.

On my deathbed I’ll ask for three things: a Midwestern smallmouth river, a buzzbait, and one last cast.

They’ll be out on the seams, I’ll wager. They’ll be lying in wait, smacking shiners off to minnow heaven. They’ll be ripe and fat in the late spring.