Do you like to talk fishing? Okay, but how about talking fishing at cocktail or dinner parties? I absolutely hate that. Let me explain why.

In my particular upscale neighborhood (where I was let in by accident), there are still lots of 1960s-style cocktail and dinner parties. A little old-fashioned, perhaps, but that’s just how it is. So dust off your tweed sport jacket and follow along….

Mrs. Merwin and I used to be invited to lots of these, but only because of my local notoriety as a fisherman. “Well, you know, Dear, that cousin Bob will be in from Chicago. And you know how much Bob loves to fish. So let’s invite the Merwins! That way Bob will have someone to talk with.” I could almost hear the conversation taking place down the road, followed by a sure-enough invitation.

So far, so good. But what then happened more often than not was that Bob–or whomever–turned out to be something of a jerk, or stupid, or smelled bad–whatever. And after a couple of drinks, good ol’ Bob would insist on giving me an hour-long blow-by-blow of his encounter with a 20-inch brown on the Beaverkill or Au Sable or Madison or Hat Creek, depending on where he’d traveled last.

As the cocktail party thus turned into a chamber of horrors, I was inevitably reminded of what the late angling author Howard Walden wrote back in 1972: “The fact that Smith and Jones both fish is no more a sign of fundamental kinship between them, no more an earnest of sympathetically beating hearts, than is a common liking for turnips.”

I don’t hate people in general, and I don’t hate people who fish. I’ve had lots of riverbank conversations with other anglers who I thoroughly enjoyed.

But I don’t like being manipulated into social situations by simple virtue of being an angler. And that’s why I no longer go to cocktail parties…. — John Merwin