Thursday, December 1, 2005

One Last Word on Fishing

Nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught. ~Author Unknown

I've explained the reasons I quit fishing, but I must admit that I still have the occasional hankering, because, when the skiers were still asleep, the tournaments were elsewhere, and the boat worked right, fishing was just plain fun.

I liked fishing alone because it allowed for contemplation, revitalization, and the opportunity to lie like a rug about the size of the fish I caught (or almost caught). Besides, having a good fishing partner can make the experience even more fun. When I lived in Virginia, I used to fish fairly regularly with two gentlemen who, while both good fishing companions, were as different as night and day.

The first was a serious, extremely knowledgeable fisherman who taught me most of what I know about fishing and all of what I know about boats. Despite being dedicated to catching big largemouth bass, he had a sense of humor coupled with an "aw-shucks" sort of personality that made him easy to like. This is "Moon" who I introduced in an earlier piece.

I have expressed my opinion about tournament fishing, but I have to admit to having fished in some myself. Moon and I, in fact, partnered in a couple of actual real-money prize tournaments, and actually won one of them. The bass tournament in question was sponsored by a beer company and winning got us $800 and a small boat (which we sold), so this was cool. The reason we won is that Moon is one heckuva fisherman.

We caught 29 lbs. of bass, winning by 2 lbs. Our company newsletter writer, always desperate for material, asked Moon about how we won it. Ol' Moon waxed eloquent about how "we" caught all these fish. Well, the truth must out. Yes, "we" caught all those bass. Moon caught over 20 lbs. of them, and I caught the rest (frankly 9 lbs. was a pretty good day for me). When I saw him, I asked Moon why he was being so modest. He said, "Look, my catch would have been good for fifth place. You caught the margin of victory! We couldn't have won it without you!"

They don't make many people like that anymore.

The other fellow was Hal, who felt he was an outdoorsman in the mold of Daniel Boone. Unfortunately, he was more an outdoorsman in the mold of Pat Boone. His greatest claim to fame was a constant stream of stories about catching huge bass, shooting monster bucks, and killing b'ars on such and such a tree. These things were always done without witnesses about, or at least none that could be contacted for verification.

Hal bought a boat that he ended up calling the Hesperus, as in "The Wreck of the". For $1500, he bought a boat that had apparently been used as a PT boat in Korea, based on its scars. It was an inboard-outboard. It is a bad sign when the "outboard" portion is resting on the floor of the boat. Despite this, Hal was sure he had a purchased a gem, that just needed a little work. He put $2000 into repairing it, which is not my definitions of "a little work." . After the repairs, he had a boat which had its transmission reversed (throttle forward, boat backward; not a good thing). He got that corrected, only to have the alternator fall off while cruising along, which would have seemed funny if I had not been along with him on that occasion. After that I declined the pleasure of his craft. He found that there had been some badly patched spots in the hull, which had only showed themselves as the trapped water froze over the winter and cracked the fibreglass. That little revelation cost him another thou or so.

He sold the boat for $1700 and considered himself lucky.

Hal's constant storytelling could get annoying sometimes, because he always tried to "one-up" any story he heard. We were driving to a lake one day, and I was telling some fish stories, some about me and some about other folks. After each one, Hal had to say how he had had a similar experience only his fish was bigger, or the storm he was in was worse, and so on. Finally, I got exasperated.

"Hal," I said, "If I told you I went to Canada and shot a blue moose, you'd tell me you got one with polka dots and had to eat it on the way out!"

He looked at me very seriously and said, "Yes. Yes, I would."

You just can't get mad at such an honest liar.

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