Have you ever noticed that a symphony conductor's baton has a rhythmic quality like a fly fisherman false casting?
You didn't? Well, maybe you’re not paying attention, because fishing music is around us—if we know where to look.
Admittedly, it’s not as plentiful as it once was, and the variety of music you’ll find it in has shrunk respectively.
Symphonic, music featuring fishing is in the shortest supply. Since Mr. Schubert wrote his "Trout Quintet" in 1819 there simply haven't been many such works. Beethoven never wrote a "Snook Symphony" and Mozart a "Crawdad Concerto." Tchaikovsky never wrote a “Channel Catfish Cadenza.”
The fishing songs that remain tend to be of the country-western variety and have titles like, "Fish or Cut Bait, Baby, Cause I'm Halfway Out The Door", or "Something Fishy Is Goin' Down 'Cause The Guy You Say Is Your Grandpa Looks Just Like Your Ex-Boyfriend."
Long ago, somebody wrote "The Crawdad Song" which tells you to, "get a line and I'll get a pole, honey/we'll go down to the crawdad hole..."
But even these works have become dinosaurs of fishing music--catching crayfish is a nearly lost art and nobody has been singing about it since the days of Tex Ritter. In the likely event that you don’t know the name, you’re proving my point.
They just don’t write songs like that anymore. Today’s country singers are more concerned with cheatin’ mamas than catchin’ bass—they and their music have been processed like American cheese. Used to be in country music that when your love took off it was with your best friend or she jumped off a bridge; now she moves to New York and runs a fern bar.
This all breaks my fishing heart, as I have been known to nightfish for bass with a radio tuned to the Grand Ol’ Opry, listening to my long-ago favorites like Lew Childre’s “Everybody’s Fishin.” There is magic in this—soft summer night, stars twinkling, frogs singing background to steel guitars.
It seems the days of the late, sainted Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings are past. I’ve read that these country legends were fond of fishing together on the lake where Cash lived. Their connection with fishing and music no doubt spoke to them, too, because both sang of fish and rivers.
In their absence, I’ve been forced to do some singing of my own. When I was a kid, about the time of the American Revolution, there was a popular song called “The Three Little Fishies,” and it had some of the most inane lyrics in the history of popular song. I loved it then and I love it now. For maximum effect, you must sing it like a 3-year-old who can’t quite pronounce the words:
“Down in the meadow in an itty-bitty itty-bitty poo. Fwam free widdle fishies an’ a mama fishie too…”
It goes on from there. To make it complete, you must learn the ridiculous refrain which is: “Boop, boop dit-em dat-em what-em chu!” Repeated three times, as if once wasn’t more than enough.
Oh, it makes my heart leap to think of it! I often sing this song when I am fishing. If singing and fishing were right for the Man in Black and Waylon, then it has to be good for the rest of us.
So, just wait till I get tuned here and we’ll light into “Everybody’s Fishin.” You can keep time by tapping your Ugly Stick on the floor.