Herald Outdoors Columnist
A couple of days ago I observed a trio of anglers on a creek bank. Two were fishing while one was bent over behind a pickup truck, attempting to extract a fishhook from his pants leg. The extraction process was in its early stages. The man had not yet removed his knife from his pocket. I don’t know why he wasted all that time. When it comes to fish hook removal, the trusty blade must always eventually make an appearance.
I well understood the fellow’s plight. It’s the same reason I own several pairs of trousers that resemble so many slices of Swiss cheese. Not to mention numerous ugly scars sustained from hooking myself when I should have been hooking organisms with fins and gills.
Hooking oneself or an unfortunate fishing partner is an angler’s occupational hazard. Don’t you dare lie and tell me you haven’t done both.
Years back, Cletus Monroe and Casper Osborne were fishing a farm pond when Clete skewered the back of Casper’s head with a treble hook attached to a Devil’s Horse topwater plug. Casper screamed in bloodcurdling fashion while Clete bellyached over the fact that not only might the fishing trip be cut short, but the cherished lure might somehow be ruined as well. Fishing buddies were in good supply back then, but a new Devil’s Horse was a rare thing to a usually-broke 10-year-old, a true crown jewel in an otherwise sparsely populated rusty tacklebox.
As it turned out, Clete needn’t have worried. The lure emerged undamaged and good as new after a quick yank with needle-nosed pliers and Casper’s howling subsided shortly after the bleeding stopped. The pair resumed fishing and there was no further excitement until Casper’s mom later saw the blood that had run down his back and soaked through his white T-shirt before drying.
I asked Clete not long ago if he remembered the incident and he replied, “Yeah, boy. I caught three 4-pounders that morning!”
Casper remembered it, too. Especially the iodine and the tetanus shot.
Now fast forward to last summer. My buddy Benny Barnes and I were fishing another pond. Both of us, unless one factors in maturity level, are about 50 years removed from age 10.
I was instructing Benny in the art of fishing for bass from the bank.
We were both using my tackle, including some pricey lures, which Benny started out carrying hooked in his hat, a souvenir baseball cap from Tupelo, Mississippi with the logo “Elvis Lives” across the front. The hat was a perfect accessory to Benny’s “Nobody Believes I’m Elvis” shirt and he was understandably upset when the plugs subsequently ripped the prized redneck-chic headgear to shreds.
When his tears dried, Benny conjured up what he considered an ingenious new way to carry the lures. He suspended them by their back hooks from the tops of his black, knee-high rubber boots, the sort of footwear normally associated with poultry processors and commercial oyster shuckers. Why, he thought, could they not double as lure caddies? In all, he hung about $20-worth of bass plugs from the top of each one. No, I don’t know why he didn’t have at least a pocket-size tackle box. See “maturity level,” paragraph No. 9.
Long story short, we walked in opposite directions around the pond and met on the far bank. My gaze immediately fell upon his now-bare boot tops.
“Where, pray tell, are my lures?” I asked.
Looking downward, he could muster only a sheepish, “Uh-oh.”
Search as we might, we never found them. Not one. But I couldn’t get mad. Not at Benny. My heart actually went out to him.
You see, the boy still mourns ol’ Elvis nearly 35 years after his passing and here, just an hour or so previous, his beloved cap commemorating the “King” had also met an untimely demise. Anger directed his way now, I thought, might just do him in, or at least bring on serious psychological trauma.
“No problem, Buddy,” I magnanimously stated. “What’s a bass plug or two between friends?”
He looked into my eyes with deep affection and gratitude.
“Thank you. Thank you very much,” he replied.