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A new meaning for ‘catch and release’

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POSTED December 9, 2009 2:44 a.m.
I used to be a young troller, fishing for phone numbers at the Ketchikan mall back home whenever the team or group I was a part of left the island for competition.

With age is supposed to come maturity, which, if we want to be honest, isn’t always the case.

Nate and I post up at a Modesto bookstore most Sundays and observe the intricacies of interaction while reading about fly-fishing, planning trips or grading essays.  

We see guys with the, ‘Yeah, she’s my chick,’ look as they survey the grounds for threatening alpha males. We see people dressed as if the cafe is a nightclub and strut loudly leaving their scent lingering in the air.

Some come to read, study, visit or people watch.

We decided that we look anywhere from teachers to fishermen or college students to homeless depending on the Sunday.

Being we are hybrids, we settled on fishing comparisons to articulate the scene at not just bookstores, but the dating waters in general.

To put metaphorical words to what we discussed, I enlisted the help of a friend to provide a female perspective. Bailey (not her real name) is a petite Norwegian commercial fisherman (deck monkey) turned expert fish analyst based out of Petersburg, Alaska — that’s twice the man many men will ever be, without sacrificing her girlishness, if that makes any sense.

She speaks her mind, has little patience for games or tolerance for idiocy. We categorized, in angling terms, two basic types of active pursuit.

Trolling (heavy flirting, ‘workin’ it’): In the fishing realm, two hooks are attached to one bait at the end of a 6-foot leader. A bright kidney weight keeps the bait swiveling along areas of high target species abundance.

Most by-catch (not what you’re fishing for) can be released without harm or commitment but many non-target species cannot be released without harm (they can’t resist the bait and don’t know there is a torturous hook embedded therein).

Replace hooks with high-intensity flirting, species with members of the opposite sex, by-catch with people ‘that will work’ or one-sided relationships and you have the dating equivalent.

The second is long-lining (uber-flirting, ‘game by the pound’, Wedding Crashers): During desperate seasons, multiple hooks are attached to weighted lines on poles extending diagonally over both rails (the more hooks, the better the chance to snag something, anything).

The baited barbs plug along as the boat jogs over schools in a manner similar to trollers. The advantage is high catch rates but with this comes the likelihood of conflict and retention of undesired catch. The angler hooks as much as possible, with little to no regard for feelings because fish don’t have them.

We laughed a bit at first when we made the connections, but it became too sad to be funny when we discussed the implications.

Our metaphors led to a conclusion: The dating scene is a snag of ridiculousness which is almost wholly undesirable because of societal manifestations that have turned chivalrous courtship into barbaric breeding that even disregards the sanctity of marriage and ruins families (see the Tiger Woods saga).

That is not to say, of course, that everyone that happens to enter the hot spot on a Friday night, or eats carrot cake while reading at a bookstore cafe is looking for a meaningless hook-up. It is unreasonable to speak in absolutes, and plenty of people skipper through weekends with no problem or avoid potential pitfalls altogether.

But I’ve seen plenty to support that professional long-lining is a lifestyle that isn’t easily walked away from, and there is no guarantee once you want to, you can.

I have taken the better part of the last half decade to reassess my own priorities and convictions to prevent idiocy. Even the Wedding Crashers quit their long-lining, but we know it was something else that made their characters popular, furthering, as Bailey put it, an “unfortunate part of our society”.

Some of the most valid honesty came from an unprompted high school student opining that people need to have their crap together before they get into a relationship, not try and solve problems once the relationship has reached labeled status.

At least it’s obvious to a 16-year old, and as long as she doesn’t look up to certain adults, she should turn out fine.

To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail aklund21@gmail.com.
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