Wanton Wiggling – by Mike Connor

“Have a wiggle!”. “Go on, have a wiggle”, he said. So I had a wiggle.

Unfortunately, even after wiggling, I was not much wiser than before. Despite the fact that I have handled thousands of rods, and fished and cast with a goodly number, all I get from “wiggling” them in a tackle shop, or indeed anywhere else, is a very rough idea of their unloaded action, whether they are particularly stiff or floppy, and a vague inkling of what they might be able to do.

Under no circumstances would I buy a rod, as a result of such a wiggle. I consider wiggling, a time honoured, but basically more or less useless tradition, and I only really do it to satisfy the wishes of sundry tackle shop proprietors and similar unfortunates, many of whom continue to labour under the erroneous and often dangerous misapprehension, that it is essential.

Rather crestfallen, apparently because I only wiggled weakly ( I am a weak wiggler by nature, and also by conviction, in point of fact I really prefer not to wiggle at all if I can help it), and I did not immediately burst into enthusiastic praise of the rod, he took it from my hands, and said “Watch this”.

Oh ominous phrase! On quite a number of occasions, especially when casting, or handling fishing rods generally, the utterance of these very words has proved to be a harbinger of impending disaster, and nowadays, when hearing them,I get the almost uncontrollable urge to hide, or run for cover. In this particular instance, I did neither, I simply took several steps backwards to what I fervently hoped was a safe distance.

I had no idea what he was actually going to do, but I was fairly certain that it would be neither impressive or sensible. Over the years, quite a number of factory reps, tackle shop proprietors, proud rod owners, and potential world record casters,( at least they thought so), have been moved to do the most amazing and silly things with fishing rods in my presence. Perhaps I am a bad influence?

Long ago, after the first few such incidents, I realised that it was absolutely pointless trying to persuade them not to, and that simply allowing me to have a cast or two with the implement in question would more than suffice as a demonstration.

Every single time, my exhortations proved completely futile, and unsettlingly often with disastrous results.

Unmoved, and indeed apparently absolutely oblivious to my protestations and misgivings, the gentleman poked the tip of the rod over the counter towards his shop assistant, and said “Hold it tight!”.

My attempt to take yet another step backwards also proved futile, as I bumped into a set of steel shelves behind me.

The assistant grasped the rod tip, and our worthy wiggler raised his hand hard, putting an awesome bend in the rod, and continuing to do so until it had very nearly described a complete semicircle from butt to tip. At this point, the spirit of carbon fibre apparently decided that he had had more than enough of this vile treatment, and gave up the ghost.

Quite a small report sounded, followed closely by a shriek from the shop assisant, followed yet again by another much louder cracking report, and a sound like hailstones hitting a tin roof.

This all occurred within a split second.

The assistant had barely completed his marrow curdling shriek, before clapping his hands to his face, from between which amazingly large quantities of blood began welling and dripping. The wiggler stood apparently dumbfounded for a second, and then dropped the remains of the rod and began wiping his eyes.

Quite a few minutes, and considerable gentle persuasion,was required to get the shop assistant to take his hands away from his face, so that I could view the damage. A long deep gash ran from the side of his mouth, nearly up to his eye, and although the flow of blood had by now diminished a little, there was still plenty to go round. Indeed, the counter top, his clothes, the floor, the cash register, had all received a more than ample helping, and more was being freely distributed by the second, should the first few gushes indeed prove insufficient.

All anglers in Germany are required to have a first aid certificate before they may obtain a licence. I had originally assumed that this was in case of accidents on the stream, but now realised that the powers that be must be aware of what dangerous places tackle shops can be.

After about twenty minutes, an ambulance arrived and carted him off, after one of the medics had removed a few loose splinters from the wigglers eyes, and admonishing him not to rub them.

I heard he had to have sixteen stitches in the gash. He will have a scar that any Cossack would be proud of, for the rest of his life.

In the meantime, the wiggler picked up the butt, and a few bits and pieces, and holding them in his hands he looked at them, and then up at me, saying “I cant understand it, nothing like that has ever happened before! Must have been defective!”.

I refrained from further comment, and took my leave shortly afterwards. This particular tackle shop is no longer on my list of “places I like to visit”.

For those of you interested in the technical aspects of such an occurence, here they are.

If you grasp a rod at the tip, practically any lateral pressure you exert on this thin part of the blank will cause it to snap like a carrot. Having done so, and still being under considerable pressure from any wanton wiggler who is holding it at the time, the broken end will spring up and out with very considerable force. Should anybody be unfortunate enough to have placed his physiognomy in the arc which this, unlike a carrot, extremely sharp and jagged implement, is now describing at very high speed (which is basically unavoidable if he was foolish enough to hold the tip of a rod for a wiggler), it will almost certainly be permanently altered as a result.

Steel beams placed relatively low under the roof, are not a good idea in tackle shops owned by wigglers (much the same applies to ceiling fans). Having carried out the rapid, unwonted, and fairly large scale plastic surgery on the luckless emloyee now holding his face, the tipless rod continues its unstoppable journey upwards, until it contacts just such a steel beam, with a resounding crack. Being already damaged, the impact causes the remains of the tip to shatter like glass, and spray fragments all over the place. Some of which may cause injury or discomfort to innocent bystanders, and of course the by no means innocent wiggler, and his already severely injured assistant.

There are any number of morals to be gleaned from this story, but I will confine myself to those having an immediate effect on anglers wishing to purchase various fishing implements.

Wanton wiggling is a waste of time and effort, and risky to boot. If you see tackle dealers, or anybody else carrying out wanton wiggling, then don´t buy any rods from them. Even if nothing happens at the time, a rod which has been wantonly wiggled is highly likely to fail at some future date, as they are simply not designed to stand such treatment, and will almost certainly be damaged by it.

The extremely high incindence of broken tips, for no immediately apparent reason, when fishing, is in my opinion, at least partially a result of wanton wiggling. Those who fish bead-head and similar flies, using fast rods and tight loops, often have only themselves to blame, but for many others, the reason is that you are probably the unsuspecting victim of a wanton wiggler.

Tight lines!
Mike Connor


About Mike Connor

I had the honourable pleasure to get to know Mike Connor while he lived in Germany close to Hamburg. I visited him several times and learned a lot about fly tying, fly fishing and life in general from this most humble, warm and kind man.

He also gave me a lot of his books and also a very nice creel, which is now hanging on the wall here at Skålestrømmen. I used it over several years until it started falling apart. He gave all these things away as he was moving back to England. I then lost contact with him and even after years of research on his whereabouts, I was not able to find him again. I spoke to several others who knew him and we all tried getting in touch with him, without luck. He sort of “vanished” and I really would like to know what happened to him. Really sad as it was always a pleasure talking to him.

Mike has written numerous articles about traditional techniques and methods. These have been published on various websites before, but can mostly not be found anymore without significant effort and the use of “back in time of the internet” services. Back when we had frequent communication I saved most of what he sent me on my hard drive. That was in those times when was one not “online” permanently and the internet was still steam powered.

I believe that this material needs to be saved from disappearing so I take the freedom to publish it here so interested flyfishermen and outdoor enthusiast can enjoy Mike´s work. I do not claim any copyright on this material of course and do not seek economic gain from keeping these texts alive. I am sure Mike wouldn’t mind.

Have fun reading.

Cheers & tight lines,
Thomas Züllich

P.S. – Please feel free to get in touch via email (thomas@skalestrommen.no) should you know Mike as well.

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