This has been spotty season for New Hampshire fishermen

There are many things about the English language that puzzle just about all of us, except for my fifth-grade teacher, Ms. Hurley, who always knew all those quizzical things such as nouns, adjectives, prepositions, etc.

Being a proper English teacher she did her best to avoid derivatives of words as descriptors, she liked the direct approach to put an event into terminology easily understood. Which brings me to the point of this week’s column.

During a recent trip to the coast in pursuit of early season stripers with my good buddy Bill, we got on the subject of how the fishing so far this spring has been SPOTTY – a rather ambiguous term at best when it comes to telling just how the fishing actually has been lately. I thought about this long and hard while we patrolled the shoreline along the outer mouth of the Merrimac River on the northbound side.

Spotty I thought … hmmm?

I had a lot of time to ruminate over this descriptive phrase for fishing success, or lack thereof, as a gimpy (is that another phrase denying logical thought) shoulder put me in the position of very limited casting for the ever elusive striper.

Spotty … Is this a physical characteristic of a fish without stripes or solid color or just a phenomenon of being here one day and gone the next. If fish are biting they are not being spotty and the degree to which they are cooperating with their biting runs the gamut from hitting heavy to great action along such and such beach or rock pile. Heavy thoughts to ponder on an overcast day but one must keep the mind active when sitting on a rocky beach midday.

A fellow angler walked on by with a chagrined look upon his face, stopped and asked me how the action was? “

SPOTTY” I answered, and watched him chew this over in his mind – then smiling at me he said “That’s what I heard too but I thought it was worth a shot that they might’ve come close to shore … hmmm … spotty !”

I then proceeded to tell this new found friend of anglerdom that my buddy over there with the fly-rod had already taken three fish so far and for him it was only borderline spotty.

Actually my buddy, Bill, was working very hard for the three fish he landed and I was in appreciation of his diligent application to the task at hand. Three fish in four hours might qualify for that descriptive outlook of SPOTTY but then I had zero (as in 0) fish for my lame effort so I was well below being able to call the fishing anything closely resembling spotty.

In my game book that put me in the classification of SKUNKED – a term I knew from past days when I didn’t have that gimpy wing to blame for my lack of action with rod & reel.

SKUNKED is a term for another time, another place and I’ll spare you the painful details of a few of my non-odiferous adventures here and there in my angling sojourns.

Actually, in looking at this subject of angling success or failure, it is good to consider the why’s and wherefore of being skunked or being on hand for the Spotty viewpoint of angling. If we had phenomenal days every time we ventured forth it would get to be commonplace. After a period of time, based upon your own personal tolerance for diminishing enthusiasm it might become – I hate to say it – BORING !

That is a term never to be associated with the fine sport of fishing.

In my world the fishing has always been spotty. There have been so many days that cooperation by the fish was less than enthusiastic but then again there have been days that flared the adrenals, fired the soul and challenged the spirit to keep my interest at a lifelong fever. The challenge of the line and lure, the jolt of post strike excitement and the pleasure of engaging a worthwhile adversary of a wild nature it’s hard to compare.

And after all is said and done, well worth the investment in time and energy you put into it. If the fish don’t play their part today in this contest between you, the angler and them – well, by golly, there is always tomorrow.

In this world there are few things as good as anticipation – a term associated with future tomorrows and much better than spotty and far beyond skunked.

Ms. Hurley, if your still out there somewhere, I hope this attempt at setting descriptors to actions is worthy of your attempts to teach a mid-line pupil what the English language can accomplish if given just a little imagination.

I did pay attention … sometimes. A random thought for pondering during those spotty moments – does anyone use the term “ By golly” anymore?

Gordon Lewis can be reached at