Taking the bait

 by Matt Benoit

It’s fishing season once again in the Pacific Northwest, and that can mean only one thing: It’s time to grab that pole (no, not that pole) and sit around for hours engaged in the thrill-a-minute activity of doing absolutely nothing. That’s right—I’m talking about fishing.

And as a man, I can safely say that we men like fishing, mostly because it gives us the opportunity to do two of the things we love most in life: 1) Sit around, and 2) drink beer.

Drinking beer is a critical part of the fishing process, because while a sober person might be angry about wasting a whole day and not catching any fish, a beer drinker will be too drunk to care about whether he actually caught anything at all.

Truthfully, after sitting around for five hours and not getting a single bite on my pole, I’m happy to catch just about anything—a shoe, vegetation off the bottom of the lake, a cold, a mermaid, D.B. Cooper’s water-logged briefcase—whatever.

I’ve fished on-and-off (as opposed to continuously) since I was a small child, from the local waters of Silver Lake to the ocean waters of western Vancouver Island. And no matter where I was, I can recall having only one thought: this is boring.

Seriously, though, fishing can be fun. After all, what could be more fun than taking worms and sparkly playdough-like stuff and sticking them on hooks while trying not to pierce your fingers?

This last weekend, I re-acquainted myself with why I love to fish when I participated in what, for my dad, is an annual ritual. You guessed it—I sacrificed a goat over an open flame.

No, wait. Wrong ritual. We normally do that to commemorate the summer solstice. Anyway, what I meant to say was: we ventured to the tiny town of Republic in northeast Washington to take part in the annual Benson and Barnes Fishing Derby.

Each year, a small handful of people try to extract the longest trout possible from Curlew Lake in order to be forever immortalized on the fishing derby plaque. The winner also lays claim to staying in the luxurious guest cabin the following year.

My dad, who’d won the derby in 2007, was once again looking to claim victory in this most lucrative contest. And, still seeking “the big one” late on a Saturday night, we decided to go night fishing.

Night fishing, as defined by most dictionaries, is described as “fishing at night—duh.” I had never done it before, but it sounded like fun. My dad kept calling it a “black op” like he was still in the military.

So, just after midnight, we dressed in layers, gathered our fishing gear, smeared red, white, and blue powerbait under our eyes like camo paint, and headed for the dock of Tiffany’s resort.

Infiltrating the enemy camp, we slowly and quietly drove the car up to the dock and got out, fishing poles in hand. We’d slipped in undetected and avoided capture, although this was probably more due to everyone at the resort being asleep than any stealthy properties our Toyota Camry had.

But at that moment, I felt a little like James Bond, only without the vodka martinis and casual sex with beautiful women.

As we stepped onto the dock, it creaked and groaned like Tea Party members complaining about President Obama. Once we’d set up under the four bright fluorescent lights that illuminated the end of the dock, I cast my line and sat back admiring the solitude.

Far off into the night, a dog barked. Fish occasionally splashed, and the wind blew a slight mist off the darkened water. A half moon hung in the sky. We were, as that Judas Priest song so eloquently put it, “Fishin’ After Midnight.” Remember that song? The lyrics were great:

Fishin’ after midnight

Castin’ till the dawn

Or something like that.

Anyway, we got more bites than a teenage vampire novel, and caught a lot of fish—probably close to ten. We threw most of them back because they simply weren’t big enough. I caught three, one of which I hooked through the eye.

As a result, I’m now known as “Matt the Mangler.” Actually, I derived that nickname after a drunken knife fight with Vinnie “Say that to me one more time and I’ll break your freakin’ jaw” Suppachelli. But that’s another story.

We fished for about an hour and a half. At 1:45 a.m., we’d decided catching the big one would have to wait until morning, especially considering we could no longer feel our hands.

With five confirmed kills, we quietly got back into the car and drove off, slipping away into the cold confines of the night.

The next morning, my dad would capture the 19-incher that would make him a two-time champion of the fishing derby. But it was on this dark night (for that is what nights usually are—dark) that we cemented our status as true fishing legends.

In our own minds, at least.

One thought on “Taking the bait

  1. I seem to feel a certain de ja vu when reading this story, almost as if I had been there myself. But now the entire amateur fishing population of Whatcom County now knows where to catch the big one, if they go to Curlew they must at least spend money at Madonna’s Bar and ask for that world famous fishing guide guy, Dave, and procure his services to truly experience the allure of Gucci fishing in the deepest, darkest regions of Roberta. Taxidermy by Lloyd and the hole in the lake gang.
    We must not tell our secrets as we have paid far too much to simply allow green horns to muscle in. If under duress and extremely painful interrogation, you may choose to answer the question they all ask, “Where did you catch them?,” by placing your index finger in your mouth, making a hook-like gesture, and stating “right here” as an answer. This is equivalent to name, rank and serial number and is the duty of every captured fisherman.
    For Virginia!!!!!!!!!
    Humbly yours
    Colonel John B Goode
    At your service.

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