August 26, 2013

This really happened. The boat you see in the background is the actual sheriff's boat at the end of the story. Sorry for no pics of Uncle Bob, as you can tell I was focused on fishing.

One of the things I always loved about Oregon was the abundance of fishing lakes. River fishing was always too much work for me, fishing is supposed to be one of those things you do to "relax." There is nothing relaxing about scrapping around next to a selfish river, getting scratched to hell by blackberry bushes, sunburnt to delirium, spending hours snagging your hooks and lures in the river, returning home empty handed with half your tackle. I concluded I'd have a better time and the same result if I just tied up one hook, dumped the contents of my tackle box in the river, fished until that one snagged, and went home.

Now, lake fishing, that's my style. Putter a little 12 foot aluminum dingy out to about 40 feet deep water, drop anchor, roll a ball of Velveeta over a #14 treble hook, drop it to the bottom, put your feet up, stretch out, get out a good book and lay back across the boat. Now THAT is relaxing. This story is about one of those awesome days, parked out on the lake with Indiana, our light Golden Retriever, my daughter, and her boyfriend, kicking back and taking in the day.

We'd dropped anchor at one of our favorite spots, with only one other boat out on the water, apparently a man with his two boys and his brother, we'll call them Ted and Bob and the Two Lake Terrors. One of the things about lake fishing you need to learn patience with is the annoyance of the noisy contents of other boats on the water. Don't they know all that yakking, cackling, and complaining is scaring the fish away and breaking the beautiful silence of an otherwise quiet day? No, they don't, but it's okay, it's just part of the experience of lake fishing.

We weren't there more than ten minutes and our rods began to dip, loaded with fat rainbow trout at the business end. As we began to net in our catch, we could hear the cries from the two terrors across the lake: "Look, they're catching fish! We're NEVER gonna catch fish! Dad, let's go over THERE!" I could clearly see why they weren't catching anything. Their constant casting, reeling in, casting, reeling in demonstrated the lack of patience required to catch fish.

After a time, between catches, Ted hollered across the lake: "What bait are you using?" I wanted to say "probably the same as you, but with a small dose of patience" but answered "ball of Velveeta, number 14 treble, set on the bottom."

Not five minutes later, Ted and Bob pulled anchor and their boat zipped across the water back to camp, and once again the lake was silent. We thought that was the end of the story.

Five minutes later the drone across the water indicated they just went back to get cheese, the magical elixir they were missing that was keeping them out of the Good Fishermen Club. Worse yet, they pulled their boat up not 30 feet from ours, like we had some secret location where All The Fish Were, and dropped anchor.

As soon as they pulled up, two more trout hit our lines and we netted them in. I settled back in, laying back across the bow of the boat, with the Boat of Terrors behind me, relaxing in spite of the frustrated cries ringing out from their boat. "Why aren't we catching fish Dad? Are they going to move soon so we can get their spot?" Every few minutes or so I could hear a "plunk" behind me with a sinker that was too heavy, line that was too thick, as the anxious terrors cast their lines as close to our boat as possible. Meanwhile, the steady pull of fish on our lines continued every ten minutes or so.

Finally the magic moment came, one of the terrors screamed, "you got one, you got one!" I craned my head around to look, and sure enough, uncle Bob's rod was curved down into the water in that beautiful line of a fish on. All four participants were on their feet, the boat rocking back and forth, everyone moving in for a view, as uncle Bob followed the line around the boat and wound the reel frantically. Good, they finally got a fish, maybe they'd settle down now, but I was a little worried for Bob, his drag was too tight and I was sure he had a poor knot on the hook. I returned to my couched position and book while they struggled with the net, and thank God, they finally got the fish in the boat.

I turned to glance at them, and Bob was standing in the boat, held the fish up to us like a golden prize, and said "THERE, TAKE THAT!"

What? What was that about? I wanted to reply with "congratulations" in spite of his statement, but at that point one of the terrors leapt over to Bob's side of the boat to get a closer look at the fish, throwing his hands on the rail, causing the boat to suddenly pitch to starboard. It wasn't much, but it was enough to throw Bob's balance off. With his rod in one hand, fish in the other, he began to wobble backwards, then turned to the inside of the boat, finally realizing he was in serious trouble. He literally threw the fish and rod into the boat, and began to windmill his arms, leaning farther and farther towards the outside of the boat. He tried to sit on the boat rail, hoping it would stop the inevitable, but it didn't. With an unceremonious cry he pitched backwards over the side of the boat, in an almost graceful backward arch like a whale at Sea World, and head-first into the lake.

The misfortune that uncle Bob had that whales don't is the restriction of clothes. Had he not sat on the rail, he might have missed part two of his mishap. During what was otherwise a perfect backward arch dive, the back of uncle Bob's belt snagged on the oar lock on the side of the boat, bringing his graceful dive to an abrupt halt. The result was uncle Bob was hanging upside down on the side of the boat, his head and shoulders in the lake, pants half pulled off from being held upside down by the oar lock, with his feet kicking in the air signaling for help. It was an amazing thing to see.

After a few shouts and grunts, Ted managed to lift him up off the oar lock and complete his dive into the lake. He rolled over and looked at us, his hat, tackle box, and a other personal items floating around him like flotsam and jetsam of a crashed ship.

I asked, "how's the water today?"

"Not too bad."

He swam back to the boat and everyone heaved him back inside, and amidst the small chat we heard Ted say that we had to get back to camp so uncle Bob could get some dry clothes on. As they puttered away one of the terrors said, "I HATE this lake, we NEVER catch any fish here!"

As we ended the day the sheriff was on the dock, checking out licenses and catch, commenting on what a good day we'd had, nice catch. He said, "yeah I was called out to make sure everyone had proper floatation devices. I guess someone fell in the lake today."

He wasn't amused at how hard we were all laughing.

Categories: ObservationsProse