I like to fish. Actually, to be more accurate, I used to like to fish. As I’ve broadened my horizons and become wiser (gotten fatter and older), it’s become apparent to me that fishing, particularly in Arizona, is often a hemorrhoidal experience. I live in the desert, so after all the preparation and cost involved in a fishing trip (bait and tackle, poles, beer, fatty foods, beer, licenses, beer), there’s still a several hour drive before you can find fishable waters; even then, the results are rarely that impressive. As I look back on my fishing experiences in Arizona, my memories of what I actually caught are few and far between. Rather, events and near-disasters during the trips themselves are what I recall best.
One such trip occurred while I was still in high school. My buddy, his older brother (we’ll call them Bob and Mike, respectively, as those are their names) and I visited a lake in Southern Arizona close to the Mexican border, intent on laying waste to its sizeable (likely four or five) population of Largemouth Bass. There’s nothing like the start of a fishing trip, when you first hit the water and expectations for a bountiful catch are high. It was pretty early yet and we were the only ones on the water; hills awash in gold from the morning sun and dotted with scrub oak rose up steeply from the water’s edge. Around us was only blissful silence, save for the lapping of water against the side of the aluminum boat and the occasional derisive honk from a passing duck (who likely knew how pointless our endeavour truly was). Life was good.
We were assailing the edge of a forest of cattails with lures of the type shown above (note the double treble hooks, six sharpened barbs in all; once gaffed, nothing can escape them). these cattails were the perfect ambush cover for hungry bass. I sat in the middle of the boat, with Bob in the front and Mike in the rear (front, middle and rear are nautical terms used to describe the various areas of a boat). We had literally been fishing for two minutes when my friend flipped his rod back for his second cast. As he did, his lure plopped onto his brother’s head. Before Mike could speak, Bob whipped his arm forward and the lure dug into his brother’s scalp like a plow into a turnip field. He didn’t seem to make the connection between Mike’s girlish screams of pain and the fact that his lure never hit water, so Bob then did the strangest thing: he tried to cast again. By now the lure had burrowed into Mike’s hair and scalp like an arctic fox after a mouse in a snow bank. The screaming girl was now also cussing like a girlish sailor. Bob, now vaguely aware that he may have done something to hurt his brother, let his pole fall towards the front of the boat; this placed tension in the fishing line and increased the torque of the lure on Mike’s head. Mike bleated like a sheared sheep and leaned forward to give slack to the line; I fumbled for some scissors in my tackle box and managed to cut him free from the pole.
After a couple of minutes of hysterics and unbridled tears, I stopped laughing and things began to settle down. I grabbed my needle-nose pliers and confidently told Mike to hold still while I assessed the situation. Instantly I noticed a bit of a problem: Mike had hair like the curlies from the privates of a Lebanese wrestler – extremely dense and tightly wound. The scene atop his noggin was like a scale-model depiction of a plane crash in the Amazon; only the top of the lure was visible amidst a jungle of hair. As I moved in for a closer look, I saw that four of the six barbed hooks were imbedded in his scalp, while the other two were hopelessly tangled with hair. By now the blood had started to run down his face and neck. I grabbed the base of one treble hook with the pliers and tugged almost futilely, more to judge how painful it was for him than to see if there was any hope of dislodging the lure. He screeched like a cat whose tail had been stepped on and the lure failed to budge.
“Um…Dude…you’re screwed. That’s not coming out.”
I blushed at the expletive-laced tirade that followed, but resolved to be the voice of calm and reason; Bob was clearly flustered by his blunder and was going to be of no help.
“Calm down, calm down…here’s what we do: let’s fish for a couple of hours, it’s not like that lure’s going anywhere and we’re already here. Then we go back home and we’ll take you to the E.R.” Brilliant, I thought to myself.
Bob seemed keen to the idea, but Mike had clearly tired of fishing, even though we’d just started, and told us so in no uncertain terms. What a selfish baby. He had driven, though, and it was go along or get left behind. As we motored back to the dock, Bob and I tried trolling for bass (no luck).
After we loaded the boat onto the trailer, Mike insisted we drive him to the closest emergency room, which we found just a few miles away in the border town of Nogales. While walking behind Mike towards the entrance, I noticed that I could have cut the fishing line a little closer to his head. At least eighteen inches in length, it came up off his head and bent in the direction of the wind. It was quite an effective weather vane; the thought made me laugh all over again.
He was seen fairly quickly, and when he came out he looked like a Franciscan monk in civilian clothes. His pubic hair-head made removal of the lure impossible, as I myself had diagnosed (I should have been a doctor), so they shaved a large, asymmetric circular pattern atop his head; in the middle were two separate and scraggly lines of stitched black thread. Strangely, he never shaved the rest of his head to match, but rather left the hairless patch to eventually catch up with the rest of his pubic hair-head. He never fished with us again, but we never asked him, either. Five hours of driving for five minutes of fishing just wasn’t worth it.