Charley Soares Outdoor fishing is dirty work


We could only imagine the expression on this woman’s face.

Jimmy was a nice figure of a man, on the quiet side and not usually using profanity to make a point, but on this occasion he was totally out of place.

The big man adored his wife, a loving woman who didn’t like fishing and the smell of anything associated with our sometimes smelly sport.

To keep the peace in the house, Jimmy would change from his fishing clothes to a spare set of clothes he kept in the basement of the three families he owned on the north end of Fall River.

That afternoon there was someone drawing kerosene from his own booth in the basement, so he walked up the stairs to his second-floor apartment and started undressing in the hallway.

He asked his wife to change clothes and just as he took off his boxers he heard a startled gasp. The woman who rented her apartment on the third floor had cleared the first staircase and was staring at her bottom.

When he heard the gasp, his natural inclination was to turn around and when he faced her in his birthday suit, the woman let out a scream.

My mentor reached for the doorknob and ducked into his apartment.

He said that the following year, whenever he met this woman, their mutual embarrassment would not allow them to make eye contact.

Jimmy naturally blamed his fussy wife for the embarrassing encounter and from then on he asked her to collect the woman’s rent. However, the woman never mentioned a word of this naked encounter to his wife.

Our friend Jim’s predicament was not abnormal.

I remember old Jack coming back from harvesting clams and quahogs on the Taunton River mudflats, oozing mud from his knees to his toes.

He would wash his catch on the table outside the storage shed on his property, then enter the building to remove his clothes. On many warm spring afternoons, I have seen him hastily retreat from the shed to the house in boxers, slippers and a muscled T-shirt, sometimes to the chagrin of a woman in the neighborhood walking the dog or hanging clothes.

I can understand why most women object to their husbands, or in my mother’s case, their children, letting mud flow or bringing soiled pants and shoes into their clean homes.

Though my resources were limited, I found a way to hide some old pants and holy socks under an overturned skiff along the shore of the boathouse, and on days when I stank of fish guts or mud from at low tide, I changed while lying on my back under this boat.

I was also forbidden from swimming after school or without proper adult supervision, so my only bathing suit was hidden by mom in hopes of keeping me out of treacherous waters (she believed ) of the Taunton River. I was able to circumvent his ban by stripping and swimming in my jockey shorts.

Of course, I couldn’t put my school pants on over the wet underwear, so I put the wet underwear away in the same seat on the aforementioned upturned boat, hoping they would dry out.

After a week of swimming every day, my mom went to my dresser drawer, then looked in the laundry basket and couldn’t find a single pair of my underwear. Luckily, I didn’t swim that day, so I was wearing the only clean undergarment to my name.

I confessed my sins, apologized for my shortcomings, then rushed to the river to collect my entire batch of wet underwear.

Unless you work in a trade that rips, tears, frays, or stains your clothes, you usually don’t have specific clothes set aside for fishing.

In my case, I have a trunk full of Sunday meeting chinos, t-shirts, and polo shirts that have been ripped, stained, or worn, which my bride designated as fishing gear.

This tag comes with the disclaimer that just because these clothes were made for fishing doesn’t mean I have to be completely careless when handling bloody blue fish or cutting up fish at my fillet table .

Despite these requests, I find it almost impossible to come back from a fishing trip without carrying fish blood, sea worms or eel slime that are almost impossible to avoid.

For this reason, my tolerant bride puts aside my worn-out fishing clothes and at least once a week during fishing season she does a special wash with a stronger detergent and some form of odor-killing additive.

Despite my advance warnings, many of the clients I take fishing arrive dressed in their country club attire. Then, after a day of dodging striper and bluefish blood and gurry, they may need to change into something more presentable for the obligatory celebratory trip to the local restaurant.

Aromas, smells and scents have always been a big part of fishing, so I decided early on to make them work for me.

Because I have always been aware of the power and importance of fragrances in the application of striped bass fishing, from the earliest days we made our own liquid fragrances from the natural oils of herring and menhaden. We gutted and cut and then squeezed the oil from the fresh fish before storing it in a mason’s or pickle jar (there was no plastic alternative at the time) where they became a volatile concoction in the bumpy marine environment. The making of scent-attracting fish was and is a filthy, smelly business.

We kept splashing to a minimum, but it was nearly impossible to keep this liquid from getting on our clothes.

You may have heard stories of people being sprayed by a skunk and having to burn their clothes, but that’s exactly what we were forced to do after our first venture into the fragrance manufacturing business.

After the first session, I washed my scented clothes in one of those once-familiar galvanized wash tubs made in this town by the Dover Stamping Company. This was done in the boathouse yard using the strongest detergents available at the time but they didn’t do any damage in smell and stains so the caretaker gave me a liter water-contaminated gasoline and I burned the clothes along the low tide line.

Today, there are a number of much neater perfume options from companies that manufacture various perfumes commercially. Although I have used and field tested most of them, my favorites are products from Bio-Edge, a company that once cultivated live sea worms in its Maine location.

If you’re a fisherman, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the peculiar smells associated with our great sport.

Whatever your perception of fishing and the associated aromas, just remember: when you come back from a fishing trip and your wife or girlfriend tells you that you smell like fish, well, it’s a good thing !

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