Matt Dickerson: A tangle of anglers

So what do you call a collection of similar creatures? For most common animals you probably know. Wolves, coyotes and dogs gather in packs. Unless they are newborns, in which case we have a litter.
There are prides of lions and broods of chickens. A gathering of sheep is called a flock. So is a gathering of geese. Unless they are flying, in which case they are called a skein. Or if they are grounded they can be called a gaggle.
Cattle, of course, gather in a herd. A collection of goats can likewise be called a herd, but also a tribe. The group of crows that wake you on a summer morning is, appropriately, a murder. Not to be confused with a parliament of owls, a charm of finches, or a flight of swallows, which might also wake you up.
Some names are not quite as well known. A group of grasshoppers is apparently called a cloud. Ferrets gather in a business, while two or more otters together — as anybody who has ever watched otters knows — are a romp. Lemurs, like crooked politicians, form a conspiracy.
Several hippopotamuses together form a thunder. Though from what I have read about how ornery they are, one hippopotamus would be enough to get me thundering away as fast as I could. There doesn’t seem to be a name for a collection of skunks, probably because skunks never actually collect. And can you blame them?
A collection of fish is called a school, though that may be a corruption of an earlier term, shoal. But not all fish. A group of salmon can be called a run, while a collection of barracudas is called a battery. A group of trout is called a hover. And if you have a hover of trout, there’s probably a group of anglers trying to catch them. But what do you call that group?
If a group of anglers gathers riverside for a coffee break and leans its rods together against a tree, or places them in proximity in the back of the car, when they return they will have a tangle of rods. That may also be a good name for the gathering of anglers — although noise and story are reasonable alternatives.
On Sunday evening I was in a lively tangle of young anglers who have recently resurrected the fly-fishing club at Middlebury College. Several years ago the club was active, organizing fishing trips, fly-casting and fly-tying clinics, conservation events, and talks. But at some point the club fizzled from lack of participation and new leadership. It remained defunct for several years.
This past fall, I was delighted to find a group of enthusiastic students eager to restart the group. Sunday was our first fly-tying gathering. I taught a few basic principles and then step-by-step instructions to tie up a simple pattern. A half-dozen aspiring fly-tiers followed along while a few others with previous experience provided one-on-one tutoring. When we were done everybody had a more-or-less useable fly.
We also had an hour of enjoyable conversation, getting to know each other and making plans for future gatherings — and especially for getting out on the water and casting flies. Based on the level of energy and enthusiasm that evening, I have a lot of confidence that this will, indeed, be a new tangle that will last for some time.
On Tuesday evening I took part in another tangle — or a story, or a noise — of anglers: the monthly gathering of the New Haven River Anglers at the Swift House. That is, it’s monthly, except that for the past three months it hasn’t actually met.
For four years the club has been led by president Jesse Haller from the Middlebury Mountaineer. With his arrival in town eight years ago, he brought in tremendous energy to the NHRAA, spearheading activities like the annual Fly Fishing Film Tour and the Otter Creek Classic fishing tournament and helping rejuvenate other longstanding activities in conservation and education. He brought so much energy that club members had come to rely on him to do everything. So when he moved on to a job in product development at Orvis at the start of the winter, there was a sudden vacuum.
At Tuesday’s meeting, 40 members gathered, and — led by Jesse — talked about what made the club special and what they most wanted to see it continue to do over the next several years.
Three themes in particular kept reemerging. Folks were interested in conservation and education efforts to help preserve and improve a healthy local river. They were interested in building up the existing community of NHRAA anglers through events, gatherings and opportunities for socializing and sharing of experiences such as fly-tying nights and guest speakers. And they were interested in reaching out to welcome the broader community — especially youth and folks new to fishing or new to the area — to the delight and passion of angling in our favorite local rivers.
As 40 people, one at a time, shared their ideas, palpable energy built in the room. Before 90 minutes had passed, the group had elected a whole new slate of officers led by new president Wes Butler, had collected a sheet of volunteers for various committees, and had a plan for moving forward. The gathering had once again become a tangle — or at least a noise. As the newly elected president said, now we can continue to do what we have always done: gather together and tell stories. Which is to say, in the great tradition of fishing, lies.
 (To read about other names of animal groups, these are useful and entertaining sites: Animal Group Names, and 99 Strange Collective Animal Names. Sadly, they contain nothing that defines a gathering of anglers.)

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