Fred Fishermen

Went for a walk the other day. Strolled down to Karaköy in the evening as the sun was going down, to sit by the waterfront to watch the ferries come and go and also the fishermen and the people watching the fishermen. After the past nine months living on the sea, I don’t ever want to live anywhere that’s not on the sea. I’ve been living in Taksim and can’t stand it anymore; I want to move to Kadıköy so I can just go sit by the sea whenever I want. Walking down to the water I had John Lee Hooker stuck in my head.

I picked up a few beers and a fish sandwich and set out to try to find myself a spot on a bench. There were a lot of people who were out like me, so all the benches were full. I found myself a spot on a curb by the grass where a man sells tea and people sit on little plastic stools. I sat down, opened my beer and ate my sandwich and took a look around.
It was a nice evening. It had rained heavily in the afternoon, so the grassy area was a bit muddy and there were puddles in the uneven cobbled road where the fishermen were standing. It had cleared up though, and the air was warm but getting a bit chilly as the sun went down.
With the little Turkish I speak, I can understand some things that are spoken around me. There was a man to my right who was on the phone with his brother or his friend, trying to convince him to join him at the ferry station to watch the fishermen. “Where are you now? Come to meet me! I’m in Karaköy, watching the fishermen! It’s very beautiful! No, not Eminönü, I’m at the ferry station in Karaköy, watching the fishermen! When will you be here? But it’s very beautiful!” Then he got up and started pacing around, talking to various other people on the phone. After about an hour he came to sit down next to me again and I saw he was taking a photo on his phone of the New Mosque lit up in the evening, no doubt to send to his friend who hadn’t come to join him, despite how beautiful it was.
I sat with my beer, watching the fishermen. It’s cool to watch the guys who really know what they’re doing, the expert anglers. But then there are guys who don’t know what they’re doing. I amused myself by taking note of how you can distinguish the novices from the experts.
Unfortunately, I didn’t  have my camera on me, so these are photos I took back in October/November when I watched the fishermen at sunrise.
There’s a similar thing with cycling. Cycling is a very elite, snobbish sport and it’s difficult to get into it and learn the tricks, learn how to do things. Most cyclists have an obsession with being pro. And it’s not about being a professional racer, it’s more about an attitude. As in: Dude, you’re so pro. Or:Dude that new white handlebar tape looks so pro. I think it’s an attitude that demonstrates a few things. One, you’re faster than these other guys and they look up to you. Two, you have racing experience and knowledge. They want to siphon your brain to know all the tricks you know. Three, you’re not self conscious. You’re not worried about being pro. You just are.
I absolutely hated this about the sport. People who thought they were cool because they were bike racers.  Guys who were basically unapproachable because of their overinflated egos. Guys who turned their legs in circles very well and knew that they were very good at turning their legs in circles. I often miss riding my bike and going out in the woods on mountain bike adventures, or I miss the adrenaline rush of the last few laps of a criterium, and I miss winning races. But whenever I remember what it was like constantly being around professional athletes, I’m happy I’m not doing it anymore.
Speaking of distinguishing novices from the pros, though, there are a few ways to tell who knows what he’s doing and who doesn’t. Who the weekend warriors are. We call these guys Freds. As in: Man, I couldn’t clip out of my pedals and tipped over at the stop light. I looked like such a Fred today. Some of these are : First of all, hairy legs. You’re obviously new to the sport if you’ve got furry legs. If you’re riding in a group, stay away from the guys with hairy legs because they might not be able to hold their line, might swerve or brake abruptly. Safety hazards. Another way to tell a Fred is how he walks in his shoes. Does he walk on the toes, unnecessarily flexing his shoes and grinding down his cleats? Or does he walk around on his heels, with his toes up in the air? Another dead Fred giveaway is any kind of mirror, be it on handlebar or helmet. Then there are cat. 5 tattoos (category 5 is the lowest category to race in), which are chainring grease imprints on your leg. When  you got on or off your bike, you brushed against the chainring, leaving a cat. 5 tattoo.
Back to the fishermen. I was taking notes for how you can tell a Fred fisherman. First of all, there’s the cast. How comfortable is the man with his rod? Does he cast forcefully and with grace, or is he awkward with his rod, uncertain of himself? When he drops his line and sinker behind him and waits for the way to clear, does he look comfortable or is he anxious? And then the cast itself. The experts whip their rods, thus casting the line far into the sea and flexing the rod. Others, though, opt for the windmill motion, keeping the rod straight and not flexing it. It’s not as forceful a cast, it looks more awkward and the line doesn’t go as far out. Not always, but generally, those who windmill their casts are novices.
Then there’s the reeling. The experts hold their rod above the reel with the base of the rod resting against their side on the inside of their elbow. They then use their bodies to pull the line, and then reel it in as they turn the rod back out to sea. You can tell a Fred by someone who just reels with his wrists, with his forearms. Doesn’t use his body to pull the line in, he reels it all with his arms. Reeling speed is another issue. The Freds reel in too quickly. Cast out, reel in, cast out, reel in. The experts are more patient and reel slowly.
There are other ways to tell how natural they are. One is cigarette ease. With one hand holding the rod and another hand reeling, how comfortable are they with hands free smoking? Crossing lines: Do they look nervous when they have to go over or under another guys pole? Line tangling: How easily do they untangle their lines when they are caught on another guy’s line? Getting fish off the line: How easily do they grab their sinker and carry the line to their bucket to drop the fish in? Are they concerned about fish gunk on their hands?
General appearance is part of it too. You can tell by looking at a guy and what he’s wearing whether he sits outside fishing all day or whether he comes here after class or work. Who’s got the battered rubber boots and who keeps jumping back from the waves. Sun faded caps or stylish spectacles. Whose skin sits inside an office all day or whose skin is leathered and weather beaten. And you can tell as it gets colder and they pack up their things, watching where they go. Some of them go to their cars or get on the tram or bus, others mill around with their friends, huddle in circles by the guy with the tea stand, stomping on crates to put in the little fire.
The sky had gotten dark and the lights of the city began to glow, the air grew chilly and the fishermen gradually went their separate ways. Not many people were still hanging around. I made my way back up the hill.

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