Thursday, April 10, 2014

Close but no cigar

  I went fishing last Friday. It was my first trip for the season and actually, the first time in years when the boat was ready to leave the dock so soon. It seems that normally I'm waiting on something to be fixed or finished or some such thing and never make it out this early. Last year I was waiting on the mast to be done. The year before I was hauled out for months while the bow stem and some planks were replaced. I can't remember what the problem was in other years, but it's always something. I was speaking to my friend and fellow fisherman, Fagan Skafelstad. He had gone up into Port Frederick the day before and reported seeing a lot of feed and whales and fish on the screen, but he didn't catch anything. If he didn't get a fish, I was quite certain I wouldn't, but I needed to try out the gear anyway, so I ran on up. Always, in the back of my mind there is that fantasy that somehow, against all odds I'll do what countless others before me have failed at- I'll catch the mother load of King Salmon. I'll be all by myself, pulling fish after fish- and not just little guys either, they'll be what my friend Bunny used to describe as Slabs! I'll be circling on the school, smiling from ear to ear, giddy as I think of how I will describe in detail how I happened to stumble upon the school, and how, no matter what I put before them, they bit ferociously. Of course it didn't happen. I dumped in the gear on the other side of Midway Island and spent the next four or five hours trolling aimlessly around the bay looking for signs of feed or fish. Obviously there was feed around. There were probably eight or ten Humpback whales and dozens of porpoises, plus seagulls and other fish eating birds, but I didn't get a strike. The most excitement I got was when I was trying to get a picture of one of the whales and another one made a beeline for the boat. I had to gun it to keep from tangling my float bags on him. God knows what kind of damage that would have created. I tried to get some pictures of the porpoises as they dived in front of the bow, but they were too quick. By the time they surfaced and took in a puff of air and I got the camera focused, they had already disappeared. The best I could do was to get a shot of the wake  left as they rocketed down below. I've been fishing for so long, and with much of the same results, that nothing that happens is a surprise. This time was no different. When I was still tied up to the dock there wasn't a breath of wind. In front of town the water was a smooth as a mill pond. When it's like that I always get sucked in to going out and drowning a herring or two. Once I made up my mind to go drag around for awhile, there was no stopping me. I took off and started up the bay. About half way up a little breeze started in. The farther I got the windier it was and it wasn't like a nice tropical breeze. It was more like an approaching arctic front. Of course I had to go outside to set the gear, and since it was my first trip of the year I needed to get everything set out, so it took quite a bit longer. I was standing in the cockpit untangling lines with my frosty breath polluting the air and hands the color of tomato soup. Lordy be it was cold! It was then that it hit me- there's a very good reason I don't go fishing this time of year, I'm too much of a whimp. While in years gone by I might have beat myself up for being so fragile, now I can just use my age as an excuse. Who says there's nothing good about getting old?

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