Real fishermen have beards

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait until the day I could shave. Let me rephrase that: I couldn’t wait until the day I had to shave. Shaving has always been a sign of manhood, and every boy looks forward to the day that he becomes a man. For me, that day (shaving, mind you) came decades ago, and after a few years of having to shave, I realized that it’s just another pain in the day-to-day arse, like mowing the lawn (although admittedly I’ve gotten some of my best ideas while mowing the lawn).

P.E. Werner circa 1870's

The simple presence of the “Y” chromosome does not guarantee that one will develop a thick beard, and exceptionally dense whiskers do not run in my family (although I believe my grandmother had some impressive chin hairs that she did her best to manage). Some of my German ancestors had some impressive mustaches, but I’ve never seen a full beard in any of the old photos. My dad grew a beard back in the 70’s, and if I recall it wasn’t a bad looking beard but it was never allowed to manifest into a thick beard; a real beard. My brother, Hal, has sported a neatly-trimmed beard for years, but he prunes it regularly so I’m not sure what potential lies within his chin follicles. I think he ought to show what he’s capable of by letting that thing go fallow…

Round about the time I was 14 or 15–if the lighting was just right–a faint trace of dark peach fuzz was visible on my upper lip. By the time I was in college, I was capable of growing a very poor mustache, and in fact I did just that. I reckon it made me feel like more of a man: a rugged, manly, virile man. What it really amounted to was a pathetic patch of immature whiskers attempting to be cultivated on a youthful baby-faced college boy. No amount of ridicule could convince me of that, although eventually I would come to see things objectively and hence the growth was removed.

That wasn’t the end of my dabbling in less-than-impressive facial hair experiments, however. There would be other times over the years, and each time I would eventually come to my senses and acknowledge that some guys look good with facial hair, while others do not. Those that can grow a thick beard are the ones that look good with a beard. Those that cannot grow a thick beard, like me, shouldn’t try. Particularly if they have any self-respect, which apparently I do not.

My first, and last beard.

Bobby Ayala circa 1993

UA circa 1993

The first, and last time I attempted a full beard was a little more than 20 years ago. It didn’t go particularly well, although my dog never rarely judged me. After deciding that the beard wasn’t working out quite as I’d hoped, it was reduced to a goatee of sorts.  At the time, every major league basbeball player was sporting this particular look, so why not me? That actually lasted for a period of nearly a year. When my daughter was born, one of the first things she saw was her father with a bad goatee, and there ensued much crying. Not wanting her to grow up with a false impression of what real facial hair should be, the goatee gave way to a clean-shaven face, and in the nearly 20 years since then that’s how I’ve remained. Yes, I’ve gone several days at a time without shaving, but it has always been with the intent of taking a razor to the whiskers sooner than later.

Now, at age 49, I’m coming to grips with the fact  that I may never be able to grow the beard of my fancy– certainly not The Beard, which is an enviable display of testosterone adorning the face of a man by the name of Marc Crapo. The Beard lives and breaths in Ashton, Idaho, where trout live in fear of such facial hair. I passed through that general area last summer and caught a few trout, but the trout did not fear me, nor did I stay long. Had I a proper beard, and the confidence that would surely have accompanied it, who’s to say how long I might have stuck around and how many more trout–trout that feared me–I might have caught?

THE Beard

Some things in life just weren’t mean to be, and being incapable of ever playing the guitar the way I want to is not the only thing preventing me from being more like The Reverend Billy Gibbons. One would think that I could accept this and ease into a clean-shaven middle age, complete with Dockers and sweater vests. One would think I’d have learned by now. But the fact of the matter is that Mrs. UA loves facial hair and lately has been urging me to grow a beard, which is something I’ve resisted. Until 7 days ago.

The beginnings of an unaccomplished beard.

I realize that the growth of hair which is currently spreading slowly across my jawline does not yet constitue a beard–I’ve a good long ways to go before it can be called that. I also realize that real men, with real beards, can probably grow more than this in a 24-hour period. But I have to give this thing time. In fact, patience is key in growing a thick beard, as pointed out in these instructions:  How To Grow a Thick Beard. According to these helpful guidelines, in 5 more weeks I should have a thick beard.

I remain skeptical of those lofty claims, but only time will tell. Maybe this time will be different, because I never before had guidelines.  As I sit here watching paint dry facial hair grow, my head is filled with both wonder and self doubt: Will a beard make me a better fisherman?  Will a shoddy beard make me an even worse fisherman? With all the white hairs sprouting in my beard, will I resemble a skunk?

There is so much yet unanswered, including whether or not this “thing” will last more than another week before I’m reminded that I cannot grow The Beard. Until then, damn does this thing itch…



  1. Quill Gordon

    I sport a gigantic moustache six months of the year and grow a beard for winter. Come springtime, I break out the shears and donate most of the season’s growth to the birdies for their little nests. Some, I keep for tying up hair-wing streamers (for the past few years my streamers have tended to be sort of a whitish gray).

    My beard intimidates fish, but it works better on trespassers, especially when crusted with frost and icicles. I have been outfished by women, so I’m still not sold on the beard being the key. The moustache just looks cool.

    I read the info at the link you provided. They sure make it sound hard; a real commitment. It turns out I’ve been some things wrong! No supplements, I eat whatever the heck I want (guys with real beards can do that); I confidently ignore what is shown by two days of stubble; I refuse to familiarize myself with equipment before I use it — even beard trimmers — even if it took a few weeks to cover up the bare patch from last time; defining a neck line creates drafts and I feel a beard is not a beard if it has a “clean, precise look” — it becomes something else; and no real beard needs to be gently patted dry.

    I guess I would never be good at writing online articles about beard growing. My advice would consist of two steps: 1) suck it up, cupcake; 2) stop shaving. Plus, have you seen the price of razors these days? Think of the money you’ll save!

    • Kirk Werner

      Ah, Mr. Quill you are a man of great inspiration. More than anything else you said (all of which, by the way, resonates with truth and wisdom), you have appealed to my inner-tightwad. The cost of steel has made not shaving an economic consideration. I’m in.

      I think.

  2. Chuck Atkins

    Some guys just shouldn’t try to grow a beard! It should be apparent by the time your 30 years old! If it doesn’t fill in ……give it up pal! A scraggly beard is really pathetic looking! The only thing worse is the guy who is goin bald that still has a pony tail or a comb over!

    • Kirk Werner

      You may well be right, Chuck…but remember– the difference this time is that I have instructions on how to do it right. I may still end up looking like a wire-haired dog with sarcoptic mange, but until then I must forge ahead.

  3. Lenny Monroe

    You look much better now with that tinge of grey in the whiskers. My question is, do I shave before heading to Lewis Town or not? Of course I’m not going to shower, that would be just too much.

    • Kirk Werner

      Lenerd, I recommend not shaving if you want to catch fish this weekend. Trust me on that. As for showers, I’ve always felt any type of bathing is overrated. Just as you shouldn’t bathe a dog frequently, because it removes essential oils that are good for the skin and coat, nor should you shower. You won’t even need a rain jacket when the oils build up on your skin- water will roll off your hide like it does off the feathers of a duck’s back.

  4. Matt Smythe

    Like Clapton says…let it grow, let it grow.

    • Kirk Werner

      If Clapton says so, who am I to argue. He may not be Billy Gibbons when it comes to the beard, but he does play a mean axe.

  5. Ivan

    Everyday, I live to grow the best mustache I can. I have given up on the idea of growing a good beard, though I sport one in the winter time’s for warmth units. Frankly my facial hair lineage is quite poor, so the chances of me growing selleck-ian upper lip umbrella are quite poor. But, a man can pipe dream, can’t he?

    • Kirk Werner

      Never give up, Ivan. Sometimes hope is all we have and nobody can take that away from us (he said with a hint of hopeful desperation). Dream the pipe dream.

  6. Quill Gordon

    I’ve given some thought to the plight of folks (I’m including women, just to be fair) whose beards might not be as thick as they would like. How about: grow what you can, as long as you can, and style it into a Donald Trump sort of “comb under”? Kind of like a chin strap.

  7. cofisher

    I can grow a thick ratty beard, but I can tell you it did nothing for my fishing skills. Of course I think the trick is if you’re ugly without a beard you’ll probably be ugly with one. Fish are more attracted to attractive people with or without a beard. Two examples are Rebecca and April. Have you tried a Halloween mask of Shrek?

    • Kirk Werner

      Funny you should ask, Howard…Shrek, indeed. Funny guy 😉

  8. Sanders

    You can’t underestimate the power of a fierce beard….I like the Kirk in training circa 1993….looks like you may have spent some time in coffee shops.

    Keep fighting the good fight, and let the beard take you where it may…

    • Kirk Werner

      Sanders, that photo from circa ’93 was featured at the local Post Office. Several posters were issued, apparently. I will not attempt to resist the beard…

  9. Steve Z

    Yes, they do.*

    *save for the fairer sex cause that’s just wrong.

    • Kirk Werner

      Yes, I would agree. Wait, what were we talking about?

  10. Wade Wright

    Oh that’s painful to read. Chuck hit too many nails on the head. I just turned 30. I’m thinning up top. I have a pony tail. And my whiskers do not fill in very well but I keep trying anyways.

    However, I am a really good fisherman though. Always have been. So, maybe I am not too bad off. Who needs great facial and a headfull of hair when you land fish all day?

    • Kirk Werner

      30 is when it all starts to unravel, and it’s all downhill to the grave from where you are now. Enjoy the slide.

      • Wade Wright

        I refuse to believe that. I will enjoy it either way, though.

        • Kirk Werner

          I refused to believe it, too. When I hit 40, I began to think maybe there was some truth to it. Now I know it, but it doesn’t really change anything.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *