Friday, June 12, 2009

Blithering Fisherman

So, there I sat at 6:30 this morning, wide awake because I'm used to being awake at that time. I thought I'd take the day to relax, but I was up much earlier than I really wanted to be. I figured I could stay there in front of the tube and wait to watch Oprah to see what the latest herbal diet was or to see if she was going to give me a new car or something, or I could do some work around the house, or I could go fishing. I chose to go fishing.

I drove down to the boat launch I usually go to on the Alabama border on the Perdido River. I got there at about 8:30, half way expecting to be the only one there. After all, it was Friday morning. I got down there and there were eleven vehicles with boat trailers already there! I counted the trailers and thought, "Don't these people have jobs?" Then I reminded myself that I was one of those people...

So, I backed my boat into the water and parked beside my fellow deadbeats.

It was a pretty nice day on the water. The water was smooth with just a little breeze, but the temperature did warm up quite a lot as the day wore on. Every time I go out there, I'm reminded of why going out in the boat is one of my favorite things to do. You see things you never see, you hear things you never hear, and you can think easily because there is almost no one anywhere around.

There is almost no one around. There were the two older guys (older than I am) this morning who cruised by me slowly when I was up in a small creek/river thing off of the main river. The driver of the boat - it's always the driver of the boat - called out to me and asked me if I had caught them all yet. For those of you who don't know, this is the most frequently asked question on the river.

My standard answer is, "Nope, I left one or two for you." That is the closest you'll come to hearing the truth from a fisherman on the water. I feel so liberated when I can come that close to telling the truth about fishing. I say that because there are a good number of people who will allege that they have never heard me tell the truth about fishing. I say "allege" on my own behalf because it simply is not the truth.

There was this one time, though, when a friend of mine and I went up to Heaven on Earth (Roaring River State Park in southwestern Missouri) to do some trout fishing a couple of years ago. His name is Eddie. Eddie and I had been there a few days catching our limit of trout each day (that is the truth). They were decent-sized rainbow trout, except for some smaller ones that Eddie was keeping (that is the truth according to me). On about the fourth day, Eddie saw this nice-sized trout in the water and decided to try to catch it, but the trout was having nothing to do with any bait that was pulled past his blind eyes and muted senses (that is the truth for the most part).

Finally, Eddie reeled his lure across the back of this trout and when he did, the trout was spooked and when the fish bolted out of there, it snagged itself in the back on Eddie's lure (that is the truth). Eddie wrestled that fish for a good 20 minutes going on and on about how big the fish was. I didn't say anything because I wanted him to be quiet about the stupid fish (I'm a little competitive). I followed him all along the river bank while he let that fish kick his butt until it occurred to me that the trout net I had tied to my fruity little fishing vest was not going to be large enough. I really hated asking another person who was there if I could use his larger net. I didn't want Eddie to hear that...

I finally netted the fish for Eddie and unfortunately, everyone within 100 yards came over to admire and "ooh" and "ahh" over his fish. One of these busy-bodies who came over to look at the fish told Eddie he needed to go to the park store and have it weighed. Eddie hustled his fish up to the park store and had it weighed. That turned out to be the gift that kept giving - for Eddie.

As it turned out, his fish weighed 3 pounds which meant that they wanted to take his picture with the fish and give him a button to wear that said "Lunker Award." I about died when I saw that button and the photograph because I knew that I would hear about that stupid fish at least once an hour during our 15-hour return trip home. (Turns out I was right about that.)

I had to think of something because it wasn't likely we could snag two big fish in the back on that trip. Finally, I came up with a plan. Early one morning I told Eddie that I wanted to take a picture of him in his fishing garb (he was still wearing that stupid button). I really only wanted a picture of his button, but I didn't tell him that. Later in the day, I caught a pretty decent fish and asked Eddie to take of picture of me holding it. The plot was starting to take shape.

My scheme was to take those photographs home and go to work with Photoshop so I could have the fish I deserved. I did just that. I fully expected Eddie to ask my brother and me to go to lunch with him when we returned home so he could brag up his fish. I intended to let him do that and then show them both a real fish. By the way, in doctoring the size of my fish, I also gave myself one of those buttons that Eddie got, but mine said "Brutus Award" because it would have gone at least 5 pounds. I even put a date stamp on the photo.

I finished my work on my photograph and had it printed. It was a masterpiece. But it seemed that Eddie was never going to get around to asking my brother and me to lunch. I finally got tired of waiting so I called Eddie and told him to go ahead and call my brother so he could show him the picture of his fish and get that over with. He called my brother and arranged for us to meet for lunch that day.

I walked into the restaurant fashionably late so he could put on as good a show as he could. (I had my picture in my shirt pocket.) As soon as I sat down, our waitress came over, pointed to Eddie's fish picture (that I hadn't noticed) on the table, and said, "Didn't I see that fish on ESPN?" Everyone had a big laugh.

They laughed; I waited. Once they finished back-slapping each other, I said "That little thing? The fish you saw on ESPN was probably this one" and I showed her my picture. Eddie took the picture, looked at it, and said "I took this picture, but this isn't the fish I took the picture of." Finally, I came clean and we all had a good laugh.

Now, back to today's fishing excursion. I wasn't fishing overly hard because I was busy relaxing and thinking of something to write about here in this blog. I was fishing for bream with worms and had a couple of lines in the water just kicking back.

It was getting pretty hot out there so I started thinking about heading back to the boat ramp and enjoying the ride, but I was going to need to think of an answer to the question, "How did you do?"

Since I don't like to lie about my fishing unless there's no other way around it, I started thinking of how I could tell how I did fishing without sounding like I'm no good at fishing. I settled on this: "I was just out there for the quiet and wasn't pushing it that hard." That would have been the truth, but just as I was settling on this line, something very unfortunate happened. I caught a fish.

That changed everything because no one believes you weren't "pushing it that hard" if you caught one fish. But I wasn't going to leave there with only one fish because the only thing worse than catching no fish is catching one fish. If you catch no fish, they might not have been biting. If you catch one fish, clearly they were biting, but you weren't catching them. Fortunately, I caught another one, so then I could say I caught "a couple" of fish (you don't say you caught "two"). "A couple" could be two or it could be a modest way of saying there were more.

I started thinking that it would be better if I could give a real number when telling how I did, so soon after that I caught a third fish. I could live with that, so I headed back up the river with my pride - and a true story - in tact.

I know, that's pretty dull. No fish as big as trash cans. No wild stories about being pulled all over the river by a fish. No crazy stories about an alligator eating the big one just as you got it to the boat. No great scandals or fanfare. But I did have a good day on the water anyway. I caught these three fish; you should have seen them. They were unbelievable! Maybe I should show you the pictures...