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It’s difficult to believe, but some people never fish. One of the greatest compliments I’ve received has come several times when I’m at a funeral of wedding or some other social event and a couple – usually an older woman and her husband – will come up to me and say, “Mr. Piatt, we never fish and we never hunt, but we never miss your column.”
And I’m not sure if they’re not better off because they never take the time to chase after the fishes of lakes and streams, even the ocean.
When the fever hits an angler – as it does all too often – they will hang a “gone fishing” sign on the door of their business, forsaking all appointments and obligations.
There are times when I wish I had never become afflicted with this malady of needing to feel the tug of a fish on my line. I had lots of other things I could have – should have—been doing, but I felt compelled to go fishing.
The hours spent in pursuit of the fishes do not pay us any money, but the dividends are there, nevertheless. You know what they are.
It’s almost as though an illness ad taken hold of us.
And what a wonderful way to go.
HE WENT JUST ONCE
The late Clyde Callihan, who accomplished a lot of good things while he was mayor of South Shore, a town of about 1,300 souls, told me that he had fished one time in his life.
“The first and the last time,” he said.
That trip took place on the Ohio River at Portsmouth. He was seven or eight years old at the time and the late Pokey Miller of Russell was about 16.
Pokey’s uncle had “an old wooden john boat” tied off on the riverbank. One day Pokey took him out fishing in it.
In a short while Clyde hooked and boated a fish. Pokey put a tape measure to it and told him he would have to throw it back.
“Throw it back! Why?” Clyde wanted to know.
“Because the regulations say the fish must be 12 inches long before you can keep it,” Pokey said.
“But I don’t want to throw it back!” Clyde said.
“I caught it. It’s my fish, and I want to keep it.”
“The state says you can’t keep it,” Pokey said. “You keep it and you could get in trouble. And you could get me in trouble, too.”
Finally, Clyde obeyed Pokey’s demand and threw the fish back.
Clyde said, “I quit right there, and I never fished again.”
Sometimes it’s the unexpected thrill that comes with hooking a big fish that hooks a person into the sport.
They used to hold a muskie fishing tournament on Dr. Grant Stevenson’s lake away up north in Canadian waters. While her husband and the other men entered in the competition were out on the lake in boats casting their heads off to land the biggest muskie, Marilyn Stephenson Chaney of South Portsmouth stayed behind to sun herself on the dock and make a cast or two. She had entered the tournament but didn’t expect to have much of a chance at winning, as several of the men were excellent muskie fishermen. She was the only woman in the camp.
After making a few casts from the dock with no takers, she was sunning herself in a lounge chair, reading the latest edition of “People” magazine, when she decided to make one more cast. She was still seated when the fish hit.
The muskie she managed to flop up onto the low dock was right at four feet long.
The camp cook helped her get it on a stringer and secure it to the dock.
And, you guessed it, when the tournament ended, her fish took the first-place trophy with inches to spare.
THE BABY ROBIN
In a current note from the outdoors, this morning (Friday) a young baby robin came out of the nest and was ready to fly and follow Momma Robin around, learning how to hunt and grab fat worms from the lawn. This provided great relief for me.
Last spring two baby robins jumped from the nest before they were able to fly. They survived the fall but their chirping for their mother attracted two neighborhood cats, both well-fed but both desiring a baby robin for desert.
The two young birds became my responsibility. I put them in a high cardboard box and covered it with a window screen anchored down with a brick.
I went to the bait store and bought a couple dozen red worms. I handfed the birds for nearly two weeks, until finally I tipped the box and both flew up into the big maple tree from whence they came.
And the cats had to be satisfied with Purina.