I was given this old framed poem….its about fishing …and friends… and how it always brings buddies together in a unified way. I want to share it with you
I remember the 30 lb striper that broke the line in "Fish Don’t Swim and Birds Don’t Fly"………I remember the feeling of having a monster pike on my tip up when fishing in "Black Ice"…..and the sickening moment when it snapped 40 lb ice fishing line……Oh and please don’t remind me of when a nice yellow fin tuna raced toward the boat after I hooked it up and , almost purposefully, wrapped itself around the anchor……till the line snapped……..probably because I was so frustrated that my arm power over took patience and he was gone. My defeats continue, as "The Re-Match", so vividly describes. A predicted 50 lb striper that made a fool out of me in my early years., freeing itself with fury that can only be displayed by such a huge linesider.
How about the time I tried to break a world record for a Blue Shark on 17 lb test. The excitement mounted , when after 20 minutes the beast was near the boat….easily 250 lb. The leader was nearly within grasp…oh so nearly….and then , as many blue sharks do, it rolled up on the line and its sandpaper skin snapped the mono and I watched my world record sink into the depths of the unknown. Need I remind you of the leaping Mako Shark in "Proximity of Breath"?..that gladiators contact was so brief but so eternal. I can still relate to the smells of that second.
Blue fin Tuna leave sportsman with many hollow hearts. They can man handle you.....your boat…and your equipment. …….and one that I never saw ….did that to me. Imagine watching the line peel off of a penn130, while desperately trying to use the drag to slow down this metal behemoth. With the captain frantically trying to position the boat, I silently pleaded for the tuna to stop and engage me in a tug of war. He did not accommodate me……instead he removed 700 yds of line……….and spooled the reel…….with the drag maxed to the 60 lb range. It was a remarkable display of will and power…another moment that will be with me forever…..but as with the above mentioned, this fish also WON, but you know what?…They deserved to win. .......because sometimes, in order to have incredible memories, we NEED to lose. On many of these "he got away" moments, my fishing buddies were with me….They witnessed my inadequacies in the raw. That stuff stays with you. I am glad they were there. Thrills do not come from conquest….they come from contact!!!!!!!….Think about your fishing buddies and those moments of defeat that you were there for. Vivid moments aren't they??? The following moments are dedicated to those pals that shared those times with me and the discussion that always follows. Believe me, you guys, I remember every second …and I know you do too. Thanks for letting me be there! I have landed countless epic fish, as the photos would indicate each month….but no photos can help you recall a lost fish…but that gasp when the fish gets off…..needs no photo for recall. You are about to meet some super anglers, that have super catches to their name, but I will introduce you to them by their lost fish. Their true personality is best evidenced when they were humbled…….
Butch and I probably did more rugged stuff together than any ten sportsmen.
Butch on the left ...me on the right..20 below!!! ........sunrise
We both angled on the edge. Always the earliest….and fished the longest…and the hardest….under extreme conditions. When Butch is backed into a corner, or caught off guard….there is no fight or flight…there is only fight! As mentioned , Butch has landed many epic fish so lack of skill does not come into play. Many years ago , we both began our pursuit for big stripers and being Striper Mike…I tallied like 20 huge cows before Butch could put a 36" in the boat or on the beach. He became frenzied over this dilemma. The guy was down right determined. The first "gasp " was when we were into a huge school of bluefish from the beach. They would bite , one after another and it was fun to turn the drag up tight and really feel their pulling. Butch was smiling ear to ear as we both pulled hard on these big blues. Suddenly a huge boil took his plug and Butch buried his heels in the sand to "give another blue a ride to the beach". With the drag to tight…and Butch’s biceps to flexed……..Butches first huge STRIPER bolted for the deep blue and snapped his line like sewing thread. The incredible tan that the summer had built on Butch's face turned to ashen gray….It seemed like I had lost it also. No lecture was needed…he knew the flaws that had occurred The reason we remember our buddies lost fish so well is because we want our pals to land the fish….We want them to succeed, and when they don’t, we seem to crash with them. This is the magic of the sport. This ass kicking only made Butch more determined and we felt that eels drifts at night would surely give him the first notch on his belt. The night in mention gave me 4.. 36inch plus fish and none for Butch. His frenzied pursuit continued. A glance over at him in the high sea s of that evening showed him arched over again and I knew this was the one. He fought it well, until it got to the surface…I saw it in the night light from the boat….40" at least and hooked in the side of the jaw. I got the net and the fish headed toward the bow. Before I could even say" don’t muscle him…He did!!!! And when he pulled the hook, the sinker almost hit me as his gear whizzed by my face …….8 oz sinkers can hurt….but not as much as the painful look on Butches face . The whole boat was quiet because we all felt his loss…everyone took a break . You cant encourage a real man when he knows what he did wrong…Butch would get up from this . And he did. So you ask….did he ever get that big keeper? Of course he did, because as the night ended and we had all reeled in except Butch...... As he bantered with the Capt. to stay longer, his eel was attacked and with the newly learned poise needed to land a big cow, he brought the fish to tape at 37"……..to end the night and his obsession.
Hank is one of the most knowledgeable sportsman I know. He knows the inner workings of all his firearms and fishing equipment. He knows many techniques for both sports. He is a fair and honest participant. He will keep what he needs and release the rest. He is a good man. HE ALSO HAS MORE TATTOOS THAN ANY ONE I EVER MET. Has a new black Harley...and is presently sporting a Mohawk hair style. He can make a great cast and kick your ass with about the same effort. You definitely would not want to fist fight old biker Hank........but he sure is great to fish with. Big ol Hank likes boats....in fact he usually has an array of them. All of which are designed to fish the haunts of INSHORE. I was a big tuna nut back at the time of this saga and I really wanted Harley Hank to wrestle a nice yellow fin. His delay was his unsure ness about the BIG ocean.....and the long boat ride needed to get there. His questioned his tummies frailty. That is usually the case with all of us who have not been on boats for very long runs to the fishing grounds. I put Hanks name on one of our trips and he grunted....alright , I'll go. I could tell Hank was in awe of the real deep blue sea .....his eyes twinkled as the dolphins and whales did their tricks. He loved the big sea turtle we saw......and he really really loved looking at the first yellow fin that I brought to gaff that day. His finger twitched and palms sweated for his chance at one of these rockets. Although Hank is as burley and brutal as one man could appear he is actually a true naturalist like myself. He immerses himself into the setting. ....he does not invade it!!!!. The result of this good karmic approach has given him good luck in angling. Hank always catches fish....and usually really good ones......like the 50 lb striper he caught a few years back!! The reason for this additional spiel about my buddy Hank is because I was sure a yellow fin would rip his line off that reel in a drag smoking attempt for freedom. Within the hour... 50 lb glowing tuna shattered Hanks daze and the fight was on. Although he has arms like most guys legs...he still uses them with the skill of jeweler. For his first bout with a tuna...he did GREAT. The fight came to the tuna circle faze and I announced to him that the tuna was his as I described this traditional behavior of defeat for tuna fish.......circling! The Capt. grabbed the gaff and Hank barely squeaked out a smile as an indication that the catch was his. We all watched Hank allow the tuna its final turns...we all watched the Capt. get the gaff....we all watched him lean over the side and barely touch the edge of the gaff to the taunt line..........and we all watched Hanks first ..and to date...only yellow fine swim away due to 100% Capt. error. He had cut Hanks line through careless gaffing. There were many sharks around that day...so I really hoped Hank would not throw the Capt. into the ocean. He didn't.....Instead he put the rod in the holder and walked to the other side of the boat ...in total silence. When I went over to assure him that it was not his fault...I saw that his hands were shaking as much as I had ever seen them. In fact he was shaking!!!!!! I asked him if he was alright ...and a quick yes was his reply. I patted him on the back and complimented his fishing skills. He said thanks. Those moments make friends forever......not motorcycle rides....or bar fights......or getting drunk together.....none of those times are as powerful as the GASP of a lost "Good" fish. In the case of Hank and his cut off tuna, it is clear that this sport bares your soul....even through the hard shelled exterior of this eternal biker. So as the world shivers when Hank goes by , I only see a buddy and a pat on the back...........and that's how he and I like it.
One of my most precious places in the world is UPPER GOOSE
DIGGING HOLES ON UPPER GOOSE POND.....HEAVEN
It is a shelter , right off the Appalachian trail , that is housing for thru hikers as they take on the incredible trek of 2100 miles from Georgia to Maine. I was the caretaker at the lodge and I met an array of remarkable personalities that were attempting this soul searching endeavor.
Upper Goose Pond and its big brother...Goose Pond, are pristine , glacier dug, bodies of water. The state of Mass puts great trout in the waters as well as the indigenous bass, perch, etc. They also put in some very big salmon as a testing ground in Goose pond. Every year some guys get some...I never did...and never saw anyone get one......to me...they were still rumor.
Lenny came to the cottage after a 17 mile day on the trail and the strain of the hike was clear as he winced while trying to take of his 50 lb back pack. Soaked with sweat ..he dove into the glacier pond and swam one mile...to stretch his tight muscles!!!!. Think this cat was in shape??? That night while gathered around the old granite fire place , he told his story............when he was a dealer on the floor of the Chicago stock exchange....He described the ruthless tactics and in human behavior that is ongoing in that scene. He seemed so far removed from it as the crickets were the only interruptions to our night talk. I informed him that I was launching the canoe for some morning fishing and if he wanted to delay his trek for a bit, he was welcome to come with me. "I haven't been fishing since I was a kid. I would really enjoy that as part of my whole Appalaition trail experience. I told him that my voice would be his alarm clock.....he didn't even hear me as he nodded off in the old chair with the flames still dancing on the evenings fire.
The morning came quickly ...as most mornings do when you are excited about the dawns activities. I did not have to wake Lenny up........he was standing there ..coffee in hand and my cup was puffing steam into the cold morning air. "You want me to do anything Mike?".....just relax you big palooka....I will prepare this motley charter.....we both laughed out loud. I had lugged in some shiners and I felt that would be the best bet for a couple of brown trout to have for a nice shore lunch. I wanted to leave Lenny with some real fishing magic to remember. In the end, the shore lunch would not be needed to assure memories!!!!
High Glacial lakes are magic in the early morn. The rising mist off the water....the first goose calls...the echoing woodpecker..the first chipmunks racing between the shore boulders. I just love its ruggedness displayed with soft scenes. Oh the fishing????..well the rises were evident on the glassy surface...I told him we would live line the small shiners ...no weight....no float....! I always fished he pristine private ness of Upper Goose Pond....but for some reason Lenny suggested we try the cove in Goose Pond....we maneuvered the canoe up stream into the bigger....broader....Goose Pond.
The cabin canoe was blowing around...so I tossed over the old makeshift anchor....a barbell weight! As the canoe righted itself , we baited up...tossed a short cast....and reached for the thermos of boiling hot coffee and Lennys conversational flair took over again. THE CHAT WAS ON. I am not sure what his chosen topic was at that moment, but I am sure that his entire rod and reel, which he had put down to get some java, jumped straight up into the air!!!! The coffee went everywhere.....the rod and reel went between his legs....and the MAGNIFICENT 12 POUND, SILVER SALMON, went straight out of the water....spit the shiner out....and belly flopped during its landing, that echoed a slap over the entire tranquil lake. He saw the hook come loose...but he still reeled desperately.. obviously to no avail. He then, without talking (unusual for him) rebaited and threw the new shiner back out. His staring at the line was to little to late. Anyone who fishes alot knows that a trophy like that will not be stung twice. The salmon was gone. But Lennys reaction ....so god awful sincere....bonded our meeting. "Mike, think he will bite again"...No Lenny. "Think he will bite another kind of bait"....No Lenny. "How about if I chum the water with stuff"....No Lenny. "He's gone right?.....Yes Lenny. "Well I almost had him...right?".....Wrong Lenny...that whopper caught you..and me...and us...totally off guard! We were made fools of. For that reason, you and I will remember this for a long time....alot more than the three trout we have already caught. "I believe your right mike" I was....He finished hiking the AT....he returned to Chicago.....He sent me a photo of he and I taken by another hiker, and he wrote on it...COMRADES...hence the title of this saga. He mailed me Christmas cards for years and they always referred to the lost leaping salmon....not the tasty trout we had for lunch. When someone says that one of the greatest HIGHLIGHTS on hiking a 2100 mile trail, is when he LOST the big salmon,....it confirms my notion that the lost ones stay with friends as well as the caught ones.
And then there was Syd....who left his surf rig unattended....and a big striper took it home with him!!!!! Don't laugh Vic from Humarock...remember when you were peeing on the snow fence and your surf rig went out into the deep blue!!!!!!!...Hello to Old Petey who watched he 12 lb brown trout rip loose through the ice, ....inches from his grasp....Big trout must have a way with that stuff. Remember the trophy brownie from the Ausable River Trophy fishing section...My old buddy Stan. When that whale took his fly...Stan's hand shook so much afterwards that he could not retie for some time. He almost appeared hypothermic...but the day was 75 degrees! A lost fish can do that to you. I did not forget you Bob, when that huge striper was smoking off your line and instead of letting it be done, you over pressured the spool with your palm and snapped that cow right off. I felt like I lost the fish myself.
You can beat a guy up and hurt him less than defeat at the hands of a trophy fish. The moment is crippling and able to be brought back exactly how it was when ever the comrades meet...............WHEN IT ALL HAPPENED. Don't define your adventures with success....successful adventures are ones that you remember.....when your.......................... ......OUT FISHIN.