My brother Mantel Man doesn't send e-mails, he creates miniature works
of art and drops them into my inbox. I swear, if he burps it must
sound like an aria. So here is the e-mail he sent out to family
yesterday, describing his Saturday fishing trip with a friend. I know
him, and this e-mail took him no more than 20 minutes, I'm sure of it.
* * * * *
Mantel Man netting a trout during a luckier fishing trip (on Woods Canyon Lake last year)
Y'know that old saying, "The worst day fishing is better than the best day working"? I tested that theory last weekend on a local lake with a fishing buddy. I'll call him "Gene" -- because that's his real name, and if I have to endure humiliation, then so does he.
Gene fly fishing on the Black River a few weeks ago
Gene's particular hang-up that day was just that: a hang-up. His casts, aimed near snags sticking out of the water, were usually quite accurate, but several times they got caught on the branches above the surface and never on the bass underneath. Fortunately, we could always paddle our canoe over and free his line. Incidentally, we now feel fully prepared for the approaching task of Christmas tree-decorating.
(Photo stolen from these guys)
My own problem was worse: not catching things, but losing things. I was using a fairly heavy lure to reach a greater depth, attached to lightweight 3 lb. test line. On one cast, the line suddenly snapped with a loud noise, and I instantly knew I had lost the lure.
That's not all I lost. The snap was accompanied by a loud pop, and the upper half of my two-piece fishing rod dropped into the deep water. Never before in my life had such a thing happened. The line must have wrapped around the tip just as I cast, wrenching it from the lower half. Gene turned around and said, "What the -- " as I reached, too late, for the sinking piece of fiberglass.
That rod had been in the family for years, belonging to my brother before he admitted he didn't have the patience to be a fisherman and gave it to me around twenty years ago. If he hadn't, the rod surely would have ended up at the bottom of a lake anyway, only not by accident. It wasn't fancy, but I hated to lose it -- not because I'm sentimental about material things, but because I'm a cheapskate. I'm also an optimist: my other rod (an even older one) was left in my Jeep because I didn't think I'd need it that day. Fortunately, Gene was a pessimist, and he pulled out his spare for me to use. Yeah, he's a little too trusting as well.
Ever heard of "jerk bait"? Some single women apply that moniker to themselves, but it's actually a floating lure that dives under the surface when the line is tugged. I didn't lose any lures while casting with Gene's rod and reel due to the 8 lb. test line he had strung on. His rig worked fine, but it was like fishing with piano wire, so eventually I replaced his reel with the one from my own half-a-pole.
On about my fifth cast with this combination, I heard a small snap and watched my lure sail across the cove, unencumbered by its erstwhile tether. "My turn, Gene." We paddled over and retrieved it, and I managed not to lose it again -- mainly because I soon replaced it with another jerk bait. I treat lures like B-17 bomber crews: once your 25 combat missions are up, you've been put at risk quite enough, and it's time to send you Stateside.
By mid-afternoon, the gathering clouds looked like they were assembling for less-than-peaceable purposes, and Gene and I paddled back toward where we had launched the canoe. As raindrops began stirring the surface of the lake, I cast again and instantly felt that something had gone awry. I watched the lure fly away like a B-17. Without a noise, it had somehow parted from its line and was now floating invisibly on the roiled surface at least 200 feet away. We searched for a while, but when it's pouring down rain, you can quickly lose your enthusiasm for even the most highly decorated, combat-seasoned lure.
The same canoe on Blue Ridge Reservoir last year, as Mantel Man sat under a big overhanging rock waiting out a squall
The clouds had a silver lining, however. Since neither of us smelled remotely of fish, Gene's wife Diane allowed both of us into their house for a fabulous dinner. I had gotten nary a nibble on the lake, but I had more than a few good bites at the table. And I didn't lose any forks, in case you were wondering.
This weekend I'm going shopping for piano wire.
Mantel Man at Blue Ridge, smelling of fish and having to cook his own food