“Fiau!” and Other Fly Fishing Slang
"This self-taught language that belongs to him alone appears to be very therapeutic"
The modern fly fisherman has, within his repertoire, and within his financial reach, a vast amount of knowledge and tools available to make a fishing trip utterly successful. Taking into account all of the technology, fly rods, tackle, clothing, bags, GoPro and drone footage, floatation devices, boats, fly shops, guides, fishing reports, magazine articles, fly club advice, televisions shows, You Tube geniuses, maps, river flow and temperature data, and LIDAR (?), this premise. . . is utterly false. In addition to any or all of these things, there is really just one essential tool that every successful fly fisherman must have in order to be (i.e. feel) truly successful. That tool is, for the very best fly fishermen, a strong set of fly fishing slang or jargon that will be available for any given situation, good. . .or maybe not so good.
The result of having a nice barrage of slang to draw from is that when things head toward the proverbial toilet on a fishing trip, even just one well-chosen expression of what one is feeling at the moment can somehow turn the whole day around, making everyone forget all of those gargantuan fish (sardinelike tadpoles) that you somehow repeatedly hooked but broke off right at the net (hookset). Having the ability to toss out (scream) an appropriate (or not) gem (euphemism) at the right time will almost always do wonders for your (fishing buddies’) attitude, leaving a smile on your (fishing buddies’) face virtually every time something goes awry (in the proverbial toilet).
I have a good friend who introduced me to fly fishing over a decade and a half ago. For that, I am eternally in his debt (Seriously, I should be paying him a lot of money for all of the times that he has let me tag along and glean information from him, as well as fish.). All that aside, he may have taught me something far more important in life--the ability to use fishing slang that resembles no language whatsoever, and that's the great part because there is no possible way of translating what he's saying (although the body language may be a bit of a giveaway). I've known one or two people who have not had the ability to censor themselves (I may or may not be one of them), and let me tell you, IT IS HILARIOUS. So when my friend does censor himself by instead uttering words no one has ever heard before, it may take a second or two more to process, but. . . IT IS STILL HILARIOUS!
For comparison's sake, I heard someone once say that southerners have the best way to make some markedly derogatory comments in the English language sound like the sweetest syrupy smooth complements. "Well bless your heart" is a statement that since I was young I thought meant exactly what it sounded like. I've heard, however (from a southerner, in fact), is that it is essentially the same as saying, "Well, bless you because you are an idiot!" That slick slow drawl adds to the true sarcasm, and I suppose there is a nice little internal chuckle they always get when I give them a sheepish (and uninformed) smile in return and say "Thaaank youuu!"
I don't want to give the wrong impression. My friend goes out of his way and would never intentionally insult or embarrass anyone. He is one of the nicest human beings you will ever know, but he does have the innate ability to take language to another level (i.e. the unintelligible-except-to-him-level). We will be fishing a river, standing about 30 yards apart, and I will suddenly hear "Agh! Grk! Fiauuu!" followed by an interesting little river dance that always makes me think, Oh, he's got another bee in his waders. Then, he'll turn back to his fishing, raise his rod to check his flies, and "Crgh! Prk! Gawww!" and then he'll dance some more and frantically wave his rod overhead like an air marshall about to wave in a jet that's coming in too hot onto an aircraft carrier.
Now, if it sounds like I am giving him a hard time, not at all. This self-taught language that belongs to him alone appears to be very therapeutic because as soon as he spouts these magic words, he returns completely back to normal. It's a lot like counting to ten, and as soon as he gets "Hmmph! Frg! Psssht!" out through clenched teeth, a slow smile works its way back onto his face, and he looks toward his fishing partner on the bank and calmly says, "Hey, are we, uh, by any chance out of those BWO emergers yet?"
One time, we were changing locations and had to cross over to get on the fishable side of the river bend. I was leading the way, and about half way across--in a moderate but thigh-deep current--a huge fish crossed right in front of me and hovered in crystal clear water not more than five feet away. Stopping, I turned to show Steve the fish, and we began to briefly talk about it. After about 10 seconds of interested conversation, we heard a mad thrashing in the water directly behind us. My friend had slipped on some rock snot and gone down, almost entirely disappearing along with all of his gear. We vainly tried to keep him from submarining, and though we instinctively reached for him, we both kind of froze with our arms ridiculously extended out into empty air, realizing that we were too late. Suddenly, up out of the water like Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th comes my friend, except this time he actually spoke English. As soon as his mouth cleared the surface of the water he was screaming, "Fiiiisssshhhh!!!" Immediately my mind went to a scene from an old Alfred Hitchcock movie as the music, "Reet! Reet! Reet!" blared in my head. I should have been terrified I suppose, but who comes out of the water in something resembling terrifying rage and says, "Fiiiisssshhhh!!!". . .so I began laughing. At first, I felt pretty certain that my now very wet friend was thinking about the same Hitchcock movie scene as I was--just from a very different point of view than me. But as soon as he had "released the slang-Kraken," a slow smile worked its way onto his face, and he calmly said, "Hey, am I dry? . . . Am I good? . . . I'm good!" And that was that.
Occasionally, everyone gets to see (and learn) how to both fish and speak in a foreign language never heard by mankind from my friend. You see, he and Steve have their own television show, and if you're watching, you can definitely learn from Ladin's knowledge, sense of humor, and inspiring ability to catch fish. And, if you're as fortunate as I have been, you may also occasionally get to learn a lesson in fishing slang; or, you may get to see him river dance or show his air marshalling skills with his fly rod; or, if you're really lucky, you may get to see him do all of these things simultaneously. There is one thing I guarantee that you will see the vast majority of the time, however, and that is him smiling and having a great time on a great river or lake catching some great fish. Sorry, great "Fiiiisssshhhh!"