I haven’t gone on a fishing trip in a long time. I used to love everything about it: sitting in a boat, fishing from just before dawn until deep into the night, with a cooler full of ice-cold, frosty malt beverages and a bucket of KFC extra-crispy fried chicken for sustenance; for both exercise and to break up the monotony, the often dangerous and always exciting “Stand and Teeter While you Pee Over the Side”, being ever-mindful to gauge the wind direction and put the cover on the chicken bucket; at bedtime, a stuffy tent, or perhaps more simply a poolside lounger and sleeping bag set up at lake’s edge, with the constant rippling of surface water in your mind’s eye as you drift off to sleep; the camaraderie: precious time spent with friends or family, never awkward and always nurturing for both heart and soul; and the fish: mustn’t forget them, and the all-too brief and rare moments of adrenalin-spiking excitement they brought when the most clumsy, careless or dumbest of them would fall for our poorly presented offerings.
Now that I’m older, fatter and lazier (funny how the three seem to go hand-in-hand), fishing seems to have lost its allure. (Get it: Al-LURE?…Oh, shut up). Don’t get me wrong; I still like the idea of sitting in a boat full of beer and fried chicken and catching fish. It’s all the other stuff whose shine has dulled for me. I don’t mind peeing outside, in fact I think it’s one of the great benefits of my gender, but standing in a rocking boat presents problems at my age. Can I get my wallet out and drop it in the boat before I hit the water? When I fall, can I avoid an oar enema, or a spontaneous neutering when I land straddling the side of the boat with both my legs and my boys? I already smell like fish, which is bad enough; will I be able to stand smelling like fish and urine? Also, I like my bed; a sleeping bag on a chaise lounge would be a moderate form of torture these days. A tent shared by men who have been eating chicken and drinking beer all day would require a carbon monoxide detector for safety reasons, and at the very least some nose plugs or mouth-breathing for another.
In retrospect, most of the trips I took, romanticized by time and softened by repression, were in fact often imbued with danger, terror, hardship and inconvenience. For example:
1) My friend Bob and I drove down an old single-lane logging road, deep in the forests of the White Mountains of Arizona, in search of firewood. We came upon a very large Texas Longhorn steer standing in the middle of the road. (Leading us to believe momentarily that we had gone way too far east down this particular road). Bob laid on the horn; the steer slowly turned to face us. He honked again, and the steer began to walk in our direction.
“Dude. Maybe you should back up.” Bob instead chose to really lay on the horn, and the bull broke into a slow trot. He put the little Mazda pickup into reverse, and the bull responded by breaking into full gallop.
“Oh, (feces)!” He yelled, and this time really laid on the gas. I couldn’t help but notice that though we were moving backwards quickly, the bull was gaining and was maybe only ten feet away from the front of the truck. We needed more speed.
“Du…” As I turned toward Bob to tell yell at him to speed up, I was shocked to see that he was looking straight ahead at the bull. While we were going backwards. On a one lane dirt road. At a really high rate of speed. “Bob! What the (ding-dang diddly)!”
Amazingly, we were still on the road. Bob turned around and pushed the pedal to the floor, and finally the steer apparently felt he’d made his point and slowed to a trot. We spent the night spooning, having found no firewood to keep us warm.
2) When you catch fish, your hands smell like fish. No amount of soap, Comet or gasoline can remove the stink. Soon, your beer, your chicken and your sleeping bag smell like fish. Fish smells bad.
3) I always got burned to a crisp. You can apply sunscreen initially, but once you’ve caught something, it’s back to #2 above. No more sunscreen.
4) I never pooped the whole time I was gone. I’m a home team kind of guy when it comes to evacuatory functions; dropping a duece is, for me, a decidedly private matter. Behind a bush, with a dirty roll of one-ply and no newspaper to read? Thank you, no. It could, and always did, wait until I got home, even if we were gone a week. The fact that beer had replaced water for hydration usually made conducting business a much more painful and traumatic experience, akin to that of a full-term rectal birthing. (Stillborn, of course). The plumbers at Roto-Rooter often send me brochures of great fishing destinations in the hopes of maintaining our close relationship.
5) On one trip, Bob and I partied into the wee hours on the lake shore while my brother tried, futilely, to get some sleep. After a morning on the lake, we packed it in and started the drive home, my brother at the wheel. I sat in the passenger seat, leaned my head on the door frame and quickly passed out. After some time, I awoke to see great outcroppings of rock whizzing by my window, literally inches from my face. I turned and saw my brother, hands on the wheel, head tilted back, mouth opened wide and eyes closed. I think his snoring had awakened me. Incredibly, to this day he maintains that our near death experience was all my fault, exhibiting, as all Peddys do, the flawed characteristic of denied responsibility.
6) Tangled fishing line. If the drag is set incorrectly on your reel, you may look down after a cast and find your reel now looks like the groin area of an old Lebanese wrestler. There are fine curls of fishing line hopelessly tangled together; unless you have another rig, the next hour of your life will be spent cutting out the old line and then adding new line to the spool of your reel. The only alternative is to sit idly for the next eight hours and watch everyone else catch fish. Sitting on a boat while fishing is amazing; sitting on a boat sucks really bad.
If anyone reading this has a large, fully furnished, modern cabin, complete with a fully stocked refrigerator, that sits right on a lake (the cabin, not the fridge), and a balcony that extends over the water, I will make a wonderful fishing companion for you. If you want to rough it for a while, though, maybe call my brother. You should probably drive.