Not many people are brave enough to endure fishing trips with me, my husband Don included. Oh, he's fine as long as we have plenty of space. Over the years, I've snagged on darn near everything you can imagine—trees, sunken logs, turtles, eels, myself, and midgets. Yes, you heard right. I don't make this stuff up, it just happens.
My first fishing trip was with a friend and her grandmother when I was nine. I was on what I think was the Gippy Plantation in Moncks Corner. It was a reedy inlet off of the Cooper River across from Mepkin Abbey. I no sooner got a worm in the water than my pole doubled. My prize? A fish head, minus the body. The remainder of the fish that stared blankly up at me was caught by a larger fish. I was scarred, but curious. The tug on the line that day, that thing beneath the deep that little ol' me with some type of worm finesse almost landed, had me hooked for life.
I am excitable. Never tamed. No fisherman wants me in their boat, unless it's big. I don't have to tell "fish stories." They are always big. They are as much about what happens out of the water as they are what happened on the water. Here are a couple of excursions.
The Catfish Story. One Saturday morning years ago, Don and I packed the car, kids, cooler, rods and reels, and tackle boxes. We headed for the soupy yellow waters of the Yadkin River. The Yadkin is known for its big catfish and I had just the thing for them: a shiny brand new rod and reel. I cast in, sat for a bit, and then remembered I left something in the car. While climbing the steep banks of the river, a fish hit my line. I turned and tried to run back down the hill, but it was too late. The fish had taken off into the deep, dragging my new rod and reel with it.
I was speechless, Don wasn't. "You know you have to brace that rod with something," he said. Now I was grumpy. I sat on the bank and watched the kids gathering tadpoles. One felt sorry for me and let me use their Spiderman Zebco 202 for a bit. A little later Don went to the store and left me his rod to fish with.
And I got a big bite. After I set the hook the rod bowed. I pulled and pulled and couldn't believe what came up! Don's fish had snagged on my new rod and reel and still had my fish on the end of it's line! Woo Hoo!
Later, after pulling into our drive—sweaty children covered in red clay—we clamored from the car and left our fishing rods hanging out the cracked windows of the car. After showers and naps we decided to go get something to eat. I froze in my tracks when I walked out onto the steps to leave, unable to process what I was seeing. Blood curdling tween screams brought me back—there was a cat spinning in the air two feet off the ground with a hook in his mouth! I guess he got a whiff of the remnants of bait left on the hook and jumped up for a bite. We took the stray cat, rod and all, to the emergency vet. They removed the hook, gave us the rod and reel back, and charged us $200.
So we had a new cat. Ugly as sin itself, we named him Gremlin. Hence, I caught my third "Cat" of the day.
The Midget Story. I was gliding along a calm North Carolina lake for the christening of our pontoon boat. I was in heaven! My favorite thing on the boat at the moment was the fish finder. Don explained it to me: "It beeps if fish are beneath us and shows their location, quantity, and size."
After a little cruising, Don pulled the pontoon up to the dock. He jumped onto the dock and headed across the parking lot to his truck to get something. (I was now the "Skipper"...) Well, the fish finder went off, beeping like crazy. I sauntered over to look. OMG, it was displaying a huge frigging fish at the back of the boat. I scurried back thre and saw that the line we had been trolling was bowing.
My heart racing, I picked up the rod. I couldn't even budge whatever was on the other end. Then... all hell broke loose under the edge of the boat. Banging, thrashing foamy waters.... and just as quick as it started, it stopped. Like that quiet moment in a scary movie, where you think calm is restored. I took a What the hell just happened? breath. Then.... a bald little head shot out of the water gasping for air. A person surfaced in a small kayak. Jesus help me, I had caught a person! And it was a little person (a midget).
Wild eyes looked up at me. I didn't see a line hooked to him—I realized that he wasn't on my line, thank God, it had just caught his kayak. He caught his breath as he helped me unwind and untangle the line around the front of his kayak. He told me that he was a novice kayaker and wanted to practice rolling his kayak in shallow water—he didn't realize he had slipped under the pontoon. The man floated off just as Don returned to the boat. And oddly quick, the world was normal again.
Yes, fishing is always an adventure for me. I do everything wrong. I talk, sing, drink, eat, laugh and still somehow catch fish and "other things." But the truth is..it's never really about the fish is it?
(I only used the term midget for lack of clarity in sentence. The favored term is little people, but it didn't seem like that worked in the sentence without more explanation.)