Steve is not the only one who can tell fishing stories. They frequently come up in conversations with - hopefully - friends, the kind who still like to talk to you after hearing the stories. The other day they were on the subject of first fishing experiences. I have a tale of my first time from childhood, and will also tell one Steve tells about another person's adult first experience. He hasn't put it on his blog yet, so he can't accuse me of copyright infringement. Plus, any details I get wrong will be attributed to him, as I will be synthesizing various tellings of the same story.
Our parents owned a resort, Pleasant Ridge on 2nd Crow Wing Lake in Hubbard County, MN. This was back in the days before plumbing was brought into the cabins, before many other improvements were made including the shuffleboard court which had the concrete poured the same day the neighbors' cows got loose and strolled across it. Another story, another time. The resort still exists, same name, same cabin layout, but modernized.
When I was six, I finally convinced my parents that I was old enough to head out in the boat with my dad and older brother (a different Steve). So one nice day, out we went. We had a small boat, a 3-horse motor, and a crappie hole waiting. The family knew where that hole was because Daddy tied an empty bleach bottle to a weight to mark it, pretending to all but family that it was just a bit of detritus floating in the lake, expressing puzzlement of why it didn't move with shifting winds. Some folks actually bought it.
We anchored in place, and it being my first fishing trip, he baited my hook with worms first. He barely started on Steve's when Bam! I got a hit. Of course, he had to stop what he was doing to help me bring in my crappie. Then he baited my hook again, and almost as it hit the water, Bam! Another hit. That was the story of my glorious first afternoon out fishing. The two of them barely got their hooks in the water while I kept reeling in crappies.
Steve, being just a kid himself, became visibly and audibly annoyed at his pesky kid sister's luck along with his lack of it, enough so that his attitude cut the trip short, or shorter than I wanted it for sure. The final tally was 7 for me, 2 for Steve, 1 for Daddy. It didn't improve Steve's mood for me to point out that he did twice as well as Daddy, either.
I'm pretty sure I was still too young to be considered competent for scaling, certainly too young for wielding a knife for the rest of the task. No doubt that just rubbed salt in my brother's wounds, having to help clean his sister's catch. That would have been just one more thing in a pile of reasons for him to resent the little brat. I'm not sure he ever forgave me while we were children. I do know I wasn't invited out on the boat very frequently after that, nor did I ever have that kind of luck again. But we are on good terms now.
Mom turned the catch into a family favorite - and frequent - dinner, deep fried in beer batter along with french fries, and on a rare special day accompanies by beer battered onion rings.
Steve's "first fishing" story includes a special lady in his life at the time, Ellen. She had a young son named Chad, and Steve, kind of a second dad to him, frequently took Chad fishing. They would go up to the Coon Rapids Dam on the Mississippi looking for carp. Huge ones patrolled the waters there, and one particular bait was not only cheap and non-perishible, but highly effective: oatmeal.
So how do you put oatmeal on a hook? You start with the original oatmeal, not processed, sweetened, flavored. Just plain old dry rolled oats. Grab a handful, add enough water so it will form a gooey lump, and mold that around your hook before throwing it out. Most of it will stay on the hook a while, and the flakes that fall off and glide downstream will lure the carp to follow that trail to the grand prize, a hook in the mouth.
One day Ellen joined them. Predictably, she hooked a nice fat carp. Perhaps it was the excitement, perhaps it was lack of observing other fishermen, but she found her own unique way of bringing the fish to shore. Rather than reeling it in, she ran up the hilly bank to bring the fish nearer, then reeled in the slack as she ran back down the hill towards the shore. Over and over. It actually worked, but recounting the story still gets Steve laughing, wishing he'd had a movie camera to record the funniest fishing catch he ever saw!
As a postscript, Ellen died 5 years ago from a blood clot that formed while she was in the hospital for a "minor" procedure. Steve still maintains contact with Chad and his family. Last month I had the opportunity to go out to dinner with them, hearing the latest recounting of Ellen's first fishing story.