The Great Fishing Trip
It started out the week before, my brother called me one afternoon interrupting my work in progress at the time. I was typing furiously away on the word processor accomplishing exactly nothing, which is how it had been going for the past few weeks. I was almost at the point of playing throw the word processor through the window, oh I am sure everyone has heard by now how a word processor can allow people to get a huge amount of work done in a little time, thats true I suppose but they forget to mention the other side of the coin in that it also allows one to see exactly how little they can accomplish in a lot of time. I had been working on stories for weeks and to my total dismay I had written nothing worth submitting to anyone, unless of course I did it under someone else's name. To get on with the story though, there I am typing away furiously, deep in thought plotting the intricate details of the newest story-line I was pursuing, when suddenly the ear shattering ringing of the phone derails my train of thought and sends it crashing into the deepest abyss of my mind from which there could be no survival. I pick it up, "Hello, This is Dick, and this better be good." I say in my most sarcastic voice. "Dick, this is Steve, what are doing today?" "Nothing, what do you need?", "I was just thinking," (pause, as he thinks) "What would you say about going fishing this Saturday, I think we could both use the rest, and it would be relaxing, just what we both need. We could take your raft out to Browns Lake and spend the day, but we will have to leave in the early morning, say about 5:00 A.M.. How does that sound? "Great!, you drive, I'll see you at 5:00 A.M. Saturday, bye.
Saturday 4:30 A.M. Buzzzzz - the alarm goes off, my wife finally hits it and wakes me up, "Dear, its 4:30, you have to get up." "Why?" I mumble. "Your brother will be here at 5:00 to pick you up." "Why?." (One word sentences are about all I can manage till 7 or 8.) "To go fishing, Dear." "Oh." I stumble out of bed into the hall, and slowly make my way to the restroom, tripping over Sassy (our German Shepard) on the way, picking myself off the floor after debating whether or not just to go back to sleep right then and there, but the wet nose of Sassy finally decides the issue. I get up and finish my lonely journey to the restroom. Once there I flip on the light switch and am greeted by total darkness. Flipping the switch frantically back and forth as though the switch is just not working, the truth finally makes it way through my semi-functional brain. A bad ballast in the florescent light, resigned to taking a shower in the dark, I step in and turn the faucet on and am greeted by the cold blast of water gushing forth from the showerhead, my brain screams, its now awake and functional. After a short shower I step out to the floor and note the light is suddenly on, great I can shave. After a shave I wander into the kitchen and wait for the coffee pot to finish its daily twenty minute chore of brewing the coffee, and for the hundredth time make a mental note to pick up some vinegar to clean the silly thing out with. (I might add here that I finally did remember to pick it up, of course this was two weeks later.) After the coffee maker finally sputtered enough out to pour a full cup, I poured myself one and succeeded in drinking the entire cup of concentrated coffee and my eyes immediately spring open. It was now 5:30 and Steve was not here, and I was ready to go. After waiting until 6:30 I called him. "Hello." A sleepy voice said over the phone. "Steve, where are you?, its 6:30 and I have been waiting for over an hour for you." "Why?" he replied "Its Saturday, remember, fishing trip, bright and early." "Oh." "Lets make it later on today say,...noonish, I have a few things to do this morning." Click, the line goes dead, I stare at the receiver for a moment and slowly put it down upon the phone. In my mind I can see my brother laying there and I suddenly wish that his waterbed develops a massive leak.
I decide that since he is not coming till noon, this will give me a chance to actually inflate the raft, to see if it will indeed hold air. I feel this would be a good idea since I have not had it inflated for a year. Going down to the basement I dig it out of the storeroom and wrestle it from its bag. I unroll it on the floor and commence to screw in all its valves. Finishing this I attach the pump and begin the task of inflation, after what seems to be hours of pedal pumping the pump (in reality 15 or 20 minutes) the raft is inflated and seems to be holding air. Great! step one accomplished, I go on to step two; finding my fishing poles, after a 30 minute search I find them just where they should be, up in the attic behind an old trunk, nowhere near any of my other fishing gear, which is in the garage. Step three, getting it all in the same place is accomplished next. Now the last and most important step; getting together something to eat for the trip. By this time the wife is up and semi-functional, she volunteers to put something together for my lunch, I end up with four peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches. I search through the cupboards searching for something to fill out the feast with and come up with a few bags of ancient potato chips. I also, now that I have a few hours to spare, make some more coffee to take along in the raft, two thermos full.
Promptly at noon I am definitely ready to go, all my gear is staged outside, raft, poles, tacklebox, and lunch. Steve arrives around 12:45. After having a cup of coffee to get us going we load up his car and hit the road for the great fishing trip. On the way my brother turns to me and asks, "By the way, where are the worms?" I reply, "What worms, I thought that was your job." "Oh Great!, no worms, just what do think we are going to fish with, do you know where we can get any?" he says. "Sure, how about the bait shop across the river, and now that you brought that up we have to stop somewhere where I can get some rope for the anchor too." Arriving at the bait shop we park and go in. Steve's first comment to the clerk is, "I need some worms that are guaranteed to catch fish." She laughs and says okay, leaves and returns a minute later with the container of worms. Steve pays for them and we head back to the car and drive down to the local Sunshine store, where I run in and get some rope for the anchor. Now, finally we are on the road, the next stop Browns lake for a fun filled afternoon of fishing. good form.
We arrive at the lake about 1:15, it sweeps into view as we round the bend off the interstate. By our standards, it is a big lake, much bigger than the farm ponds we are used to. Browns lake covers about 250 acres, and is what they call an oxbow lake, the name coming from the early pioneers in the area, It was at one time part of the Missouri river and when the river changed course it became a lake. The east shore where we were driving now was covered houses built side to side, while the west shore was more or less a gentle bank covered with cattail weed, and the odd tree growing here and there. We drove up and down the lane in front of these homes looking for a likely spot from which to launch our adventure, finally after a search of about twenty five minutes we find a likely spot and park the car. I nervously inform Steve that I think we are about to trespass on someone's land, but my fears prove groundless, the weeds by the shore are so high no one could possibly see us. After we get out and pull the raft out of the car, we go through the twenty minute inflation routine, or rather I go through the routine, Steve finds something more important to do. He never has told me exactly what it was, just that it was important. Once the raft is inflated we hack our way through the weeds carrying the raft on our backs, Steve announces he has found the shoreline with a scream followed by a large splash as he falls into the lake. After he returns to shore we successfully launch the raft. We then start to put in all the gear, during this time we realize the raft is not quite as big as we both remembered it to be, but we get everything to fit eventually, although the bag containing the lunch supplies and coffee somehow ends up on the bottom of everything. Boarding our trusty ship, like the explorers of old, we commenced to paddle across the lake because as you know, or in case you don't know ask the fisherman in your household, fishing is always better on the other side of wherever you are. We fairly flew over the water on this journey, as though we had been born to paddle. We aimed at a likely spot, one we had spied from the other shore and chose based on our years of training and experience. (Neither one of us has ever caught a fish over 10 lb., and as a matter of fact rarely ever catch anything anyway.) We soon arrived at our spot or rather watched helplessly as the current carried us right past our spot, assuming this was a sign from the great fishing god in the sky we drifted past and ended up embe dded in a stand of weeds about 50 yards further on throwing out the anchor and noticing after the big splash that the top five inches were sticking out of the water we realized we didn't have much to worry about if the raft sprang a leak, we settled down for a comfortable afternoon of fishing, about this time it commenced to drizzle, but it fortunately stopped after a few minutes, and we could quit bailing.
Rods baited and cast out, both of us kicked back in the raft with a cup of coffee in one hand and a somewhat mashed sandwich in the other, we waited for the fish. After waiting nearly one hour we decided that these fish were smart and just did not bite on worms, so we brought out the big guns, the lures, now you have to realize here are two guys in a raft in the middle of a huge lake, tied up to a pile of weeds, with waves higher than the raft bouncing us around, which is silly enough, if you can picture it especially since everyone else is zipping about in their 16-20 foot powerboats. Now factor in we are both going to start using lures. I can just read the mind of a passing boater, "Hey, look at this, two idiots in a raft in the middle of the lake flinging lures at us." Neither one of us buys lures because of the action, or the testimonials of the professional fisherman that is always printed on the package, no we buy them because they look neat, heck you could sell us any lure made, even if there was not a chance in the world it would catch a fish as long as it looked impressive. We both reeled in our rods and proceeded to attach the lures and casted them out, nothing, at this point I read the directions to mine, guys always do that after something doesn't work, and was surprised to read you are supposed to cast it out and then reel it in again and again, this was a new twist to the effort. I cleared my throat and got Steves attention by throwing a large rag at him, only to late did I realize this was the rag we had been using to wipe our hands on after putting catfish bait on the hooks earlier, I said "Steve, I think I figured out why that boat of guys over there is laughing at us, we're doing this lure thing wrong we are supposed to throw them out and bring them back in like they are doing, not just throw them out and let them sit." Steve did not believe me until he read it himself, and at this point went into the effort wholeheartedly, after about 5 casts he managed to hook the only other weed in the area, I just sat there and laughed until I realized he had my neatest $12.00 lure on his line, so I frantically said, "Steve!, quit pulling on it or you'll break the line and my lure will be history." He replied, "Well what should I do then, sit here looking stupid?" "No, we will just untie from our weed and paddle over to where the lure is caught and unhook it from the weed." So, untying the raft we paddled over to the offending weed and I reached over the side and following the line down with my hand into the muddy brown water I quickly found the lure which just as quickly hooked itself into my hand, after struggling a minute to get it off both the weed and my hand I succeeded and brought it up to the surface, by this time the guys in the other boat were rolling in the bottom they were laughing so hard. I could have lived with the humiliation if Steve had not done the same thing about ten minutes after we had gotten back to our weed that we were now considering home. And to make matters worse it was even on the same weed as the time before.
About this time I actually caught a fish or rather my lure caught a fish, It was a largemouth bass about half the size of the lure he was caught on. Needless to say I threw him back, although for a minute there... The rest of the day was not much better, as far as the fishing was concerned, I did catch two more fish, Steve, well all he caught was a weed...twice. The second fish I caught was a little sunfish he even acted like he was on the line, and the third fish, well that was an accident to be entirely truthful. It happened this way; when we first got out there I had two rods and I just baited one and hooked a bobber to it and threw it over the side. I promptly forgot about it until a couple hours later when I remembered it and scanned the surrounding water for the bobber and finally saw it surface about ten feet from the raft and then disappear again, realizing that this meant I had a fish on the line and as far as I knew had for some time I reeled it in. I was rewarded with a 2 lb. catfish, whom looked a little bored with it all. I hooked him to our stringer and thought, "yes,..yes,..yes, now we will catch some fish", unfortunately this did not come to pass, and after a few more hours of no action we decided that it was time to return to the daily grind of life. I regretfully let my captive catfish free, and then we slowly reeled the lines in and broke out the oars for the trip home. Untying from the weed for the last time, we started to paddle powerfully through the water, when suddenly there was a large crack and I had two pieces of paddle in my hands. No problem I figured, I just leaned over the front of the raft and paddled even harder with the broken stub of the paddle I had. After paddling for about ten minutes we slowed to take stock of our efforts and to get our bearings again, at this point we noticed that the bushes we had tied up to while fishing were now mysteriously ahead of us (this after paddling ten minutes). After some hurried consultation between the two of us we came to the following conclusions.
1. It was getting dark.
2. Where we wanted to go was upstream from us.
3. The current in the lake was stronger than we were.
4. We were out of food. (excluding two mashed donuts)
5. My paddle was broken.
6. There was not a motor on the raft.
7. We could not contact the Coast Guard because,
A. We were not on the Coast.
B. We had no Radio.
8. It was getting even Darker.
After this calm assessment of the situation and coming up with these facts, we came to the conclusion that we could either abandon the raft and swim for it, or since neither one of us really wanted to abandon a perfectly good raft, not to mention our survival supplies of two mashed donuts, we could try to paddle as best we could in the general direction of the car. At this point I, in the true st Maguyver fashion, fixed my paddle by disassembling my fishing pole and pushing it down the broken shaft of my paddle thereby giving me the full length I needed to use it again. (Granted, it gave the other boaters in the area some chuckles, but it worked) So after paddling and paddling for what seemed like forever we arrived at our destination. Realize now, that there were many adventures that I am leaving out for the simple fact that I plan on writing a novel about this trip soon and I don't want to give you all the details or you may not buy it. Upon making landfall after our adventurous voyage, we thought we were safe but upon disembarking from the raft Steve decided he would like to check out the bottom of the lake, so he fell in, while I critiqued his fall from the raft, I gave him a 6.5 on form and a 10 on facial and verbal expressions during the fall itself. I unlike my elder brother did not feel any urge to explore the lake underwater so I simply stepped gracefully ashore, and watched as the raft started to drift just as gracefully away, fortunately Steven chose this moment to come up off the bottom of the lake, and thinking quickly he grabbed the raft, which immediately slipped from his grip and powered by this push beached itself on the shore, meanwhile Steve either because of losing his grip on the raft or feeling the urge to check the firmness of the muddy lake bottom with his face submerged again with a loud splash and reappeared shortly thereafter with samples of the lake bottom attached to his face, not to mention numerous samples embe dded between his teeth. At this point he obviously decided that he indeed had enough samples for analysis, and he waded ashore. We then deflated the raft and loaded it up in the car along with the other gear and the two mashed donuts. After Steve dropped off the samples he had collected to the lab we went home. I regret to say that we did not have any fish either. We discussed stopping and buying a couple of lobsters at Hy-Vee, but we decided we would have a hard time convincing the wives they were just large crawfish we happened to catch while fishing.
Copyright 2008 Richard R. Radtke