Sunday, April 15, 2007

Answering the casting call

Each year, my buddy Don, who is the kind of outdoorsman who meets with other outdoorsmen to hold raffles and cook pancake breakfasts, takes me and my wife Kara for a little fishing trip down the creek near his house. Before Don started taking us on these trips, the last time I’d held a fishing rod was at Penn State, where I’d taken a fly fishing class to complete my gym credits.

Did you know that you still have to take gym classes in college? I suppose it helps prepare college students for the real world, where it’s been my experience that at any moment, a PowerPoint presentation can turn into a pick-up kickball game. At any rate, learning to fly fish is a relaxing way to spend a gym period, not like in middle school, where the majority of my time was spent scurrying into the corner behind the bleachers to keep the pubertorily advanced kids, who showed off their new armpit hair in the same way an adult would show off a new Lexus, from concussively pelting me in the head with volleyballs.

Don takes us fishing in his old rectangular aluminum rowboat, which weighs roughly the same as an Abrams tank and maneuvers exactly as well as three-wheeled shopping cart filled with bags of asphalt. We don’t so much hit rocks with that boat as we do pulverize them. The boat’s so big that when we turn it over in the tall river grass for its first run of the season, entire ecosystems flee out of it, except for the spiders, which prefer to make their presence known hours later, on your neck.

The first time Don took us out, I said, “Hey man, do you mind if I flatten the barbs on this lure with some pliers so the fish will be easier to take off the hook?”

Taking fish off the hook is the worst part of fishing. It wouldn’t be so bad if a fish would give you a little heads-up as to when it would decide to start violently flapping about in your hand, but you just never know when that fish is going to turn from Seinfeld Kramer into YouTube Kramer. My biggest fear of having kids is that I will be the last line of defense for hook removal, especially for that surgical situation in which the hook gets swallowed, which is the fishing version of the Blue of Screen of Death.

“You don’t need to flatten the barbs. They don’t feel it,” Don said. And he’s probably right. To a fish, getting impaled through your face and then having your entire body weight hanging from your lips is probably just a minor inconvenience, the human equivalent of getting toothpaste on your shirt.

The biggest surprise of these fishing trips has been Kara’s enthusiasm for them. Once she gets a hold of that fishing rod, she’s like a different person: a person who actually likes to fish. After she caught her first one, she got so excited that she started swinging the fish around through the air, repeatedly smacking it off my back.

“I caught one! I caught one!” she said, as she made the sound of one fish clapping off of one ducking husband’s back.

“Dude, my back! Quit hitting me with the fish!” I said. Luckily, we had a man in the boat with us; Don grabbed the fish and let it go.

A couple of years ago, we came around a bend in the river to a drowning fawn, which was slowly losing its struggle to climb a steep, muddy riverbank, its little nose barely above the waterline. Before anyone could talk, Don was out of the boat, waist deep in the water. He gently cradled the fawn in his arms and set it down in the grass beside the creek. It was pretty cool to see my best supplier of homemade venison jerky coming to the rescue like that. I’ve never seen any of my other friends who hunt save a deer, though to be fair, they do all of their deer hunting using nothing but their Hondas.

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  1. what an awesome post, Mike. You've covered evrything we live for around here.... fishing and hunting. I love to fish but hate taking the fish off the hook. Oops - lets me rephrase that, i WONT take a fish off a hook

  2. "To a fish, getting impaled through your face and then having your entire body weight hanging from your lips is probably just a minor inconvenience, the human equivalent of getting toothpaste on your shirt."
    That was just awesome :)) To someone who has been largely carnivorous for the most part of her life, it was always a mystery to me how people could survive being vegans. Until sometime year before last when I sprout a conscience and animal-love that has kept me from my satisfying meals. And now when I read something like this I actually feel like I have a hook through my lip. And boy does it hurt!

  3. Sheri -- You're too kind! Thanks, dude. Wish I had some more time to work on this one. Didn't even get around to mentioning the proper beer/fish ratios.

    M -- That is hard core, dude. You must have a willpower of steel. But what about all the poor salads?

  4. I am definatly a carnivore, and my husband hunts. But we both would have been in the water helping the fawn. Bad part is I would want to keep it. hehehehehe

  5. LOL...yeah the salads are getting to me too!
    But just for the record I'm not on a vegan spree and trying to convert everyone here :) I so believe in maintaining the food chain and carnivorous habits just so the eco system survives. Its just the way the animals were killed that grossed me out. Killing for food is okay with me. Hunting for fun is not.

  6. Burf -- Yeah, would have been nice to just keep the little guy. That jerky would have been tennnnnnder.

    M -- I run downstairs at two in the morning to let a spider out the front door so Kara won't squish it, then I eat a burger for lunch. Your policy sounds a lot more consistent.

  7. Ha. Liked the grocery cart analogy.

    What an imagination. You must get those ideas daydreaming while fishing.

    I never got into fishing. I did it when my kids were younger; it was constant baiting, casting, untangling. repeat. repeat. repeat.

    I used to work with a guy that went bottle bass fishing. I don't think they had any limits.

  8. I DON'T MEAN TO EAT HIM!!!!!!!! NOT A BABY!!!!!!! hehehehe
    I would have named him and got him a collar, and my husband would sigh every time he saw us. hehehehe

    That's why my husband says if we ever own the ranch we want to, I'm not allowed to ride the round up, cuz then I would name all the cattle and we couldn't butcher them. hehehehee