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A real fisherman

As proven by this Gothic tale

| 21 Feb 2024 | 11:41

To be a real fisherman you have to be able to hook worms, get fish off the hook once you’ve caught them, and then ultimately clean them. I have seen many a boy, and not a few grown men, squeamishly struggling to tread a worm on a hook as it squirmed fighting the impalement of its body, eventually giving up as they crushed the little body into pieces spreading its innards all over their hands, hooking themselves in the fingers producing sharp little punctures bubbling with droplets of blood, throwing down what was left of the worm, disgorging the hook, discarding the rod, and running to the stream or lake to wash their hands.

However, the ultimate test is confronting the challenge of grabbing a caught fish, smoothing down its gills and fins, and artfully removing the hook. Presented with this daunting task, a non-real fisherman would swing the hooked and wildly flapping fish at the end of their line in front of the face of the real fisherman with a pleading inquiring look which meant I am not going to touch this thing so please take it off the hook for me. We won’t even consider the final stage of gutting and cleaning the catch, including what to do with the head with its two eyes staring at you, but simply emphasize the importance of this final cleaning aspect of a real fisherman.

After dinner one night during trout season I told my wife that I was going down to the Flatbrook, a well known trout stream ten minutes driving distance from our house, to try a fishing hole that my buddy had told me that day was loaded with trout. Having secured my two poles; my white plastic five-gallon spackling bucket full of power bait; rubber worms; fishing net; towel; plastic box with sinkers, hooks and spinners in it; fishing chain with hooks on it to attach to the caught fish and place them back in the water until the trip home; large, thin, sharp fillet knife; a variety of snacks and a couple of bottles of water, I slid down the slippery, muddy embankment, stopping just short of the stream’s edge. No one else was around, so I had this whole section of the stream to myself. Quickly baiting my number one pole, I began to work the stream. For an hour and a half I tried everything from different color power-baits, worms, spinners and then back to power-bait, all to no avail.

It was a beautiful evening just before sunset, with the sounds of the brook running over the scattered rock sections creating eddies, the trees whispering quietly and swaying slightly back and forth with a mild wind, the sun brightly glistening on the running water both up and down stream, and the rushing water so clear that you could see the bottom of the brook not knowing if it was six inches deep or five feet deep, all creating a soul-searching exhilaration as if present in some faraway fairyland storybook picture. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t catch anything, this time.

As the sun set and dusk was turning to darkness, I decided to attempt a few more casts into the now dark water, which had all of a sudden become infested with a myriad of various flies and insects, all swirling around the top of the water. Combined with the darkness, this was yet one more reason to hurriedly attempt just one more cast. I immediately felt a heavy tug on my line and figured I was again caught on the bottom, but this time the tug was moving all over the stream. Battling the darkness, I fought and landed my first catch, a nice 14-inch rainbow trout. However, my prize was not achieved without sacrifice as my line got tangled up in the riverbank brushes, and there was no way I would be able to right the problem in the darkness. Undeterred, I quickly baited my second pole. While doing so I quickly became aware that I was being engulfed by dozens of flittering helter-skelter bats swirling around my head.

Although quite daunted, I was determined to attempt another cast, hoping I wouldn’t snag a bat as my bait made its way to the water. With another immediate heavy tug on my line, another moving battle up and down the stream with insects and bugs biting me and bats flying at high speed within inches of my head and the shoreline bushes attempting to push me in the rushing water, I landed my second nice sized rainbow trout. Not even attempting to take this catch off my hook, I grabbed my first trout, threw everything into my bucket, grabbed my disabled pole, and, fighting the bushes, waving my full hands wildly around my head to ward off the bugs and bats, slipping and sliding my way up the muddy bank in the dark, I finally escaped to the parking spot, dropped everything at the rear of my SUV and leaning against it huffing and puffing caught my breath. My fairyland storybook graphic had turned into an Edgar Allan Poe nightmarish episode traversing an outer ring of purgatory. But I had two nice sized rainbow trout.