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Old story derived from OAF post

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Shucks. Darn. Golly


I love to fish topwater baits, and beyond argument, the Zara Spook is my favorite. Bass don’t bite them. They explode on them, crush them, or create sudden, trashcan sized whirlpools to suck them under. You can never predict or anticipate a hit. You must control your nerves and not set the hook too soon. I spend hours custom painting Spooks; changing the standard hooks for expensive, black steel, oversize, acid sharpened trebles; and tying on white and red feathers. I prefer the four and a half inch original size and would rather “walk the dog” than fish any other way. As with all obsessions, there are occasional consequences.


Late last May we had an afternoon thundershower with winds just as I let my eighth graders out. As I drove home the storm cleared and calmed. Nancy, my wife, was not due for some time. She had to attend graduation at the high school where she taught. I decided to go fishing. I’ve often had luck following showers.


I was right. The fish were shallow and active. Almost immediately I hooked a good largemouth on one of my Spooks. In the next three hours I caught six more keepers. The best five would have weighed more than eighteen pounds. It was my best day in many trips. Better yet, my custom Spook took them all.


When I landed the seventh fish, it was nearly as large as the first, almost five pounds. Naturally the bait tangled in the net. Zara Spooks always tangle in the nets. I reached to untangle it. As I worked to free the fish and bait from the net, the bass flopped hard and buried the Size 2, Round Bend, UltraPoint, Gamakatsu directly and deeply into the first joint of my right index finger. Shucks. Darn. Golly. I bent close to the fish and net to get a better look at the damage. Before I could react, the fish flopped harder still and hooked the other treble in my life jacket. Faster than I can explain it, the fish, the net, the life jacket and I were all hooked on the same Zara Spook. 


By the time I digested my problem, my finger was truly hurting. I’m afraid I exclaimed my displeasure once more and began to sort things out. I disconnected the rod and reel by biting the line. My dentist would have disapproved, but he’ll just have to get over it. Then I snaked my left hand into my right pants pocket for my knife. My left hand has zero coordination, but I somehow got the knife out and opened with one hand. Sawing the bait from the life jacket was next. In the mean time, the fish flopped and wanted loose. Among new expressions of discomfort, I tried to explain to her that she was not helping. Have you noticed that females often do not listen?


I was tempted to use the knife on the net as well, but the good nets with long handles and rubberized netting cost more than I wanted to spend twice. I decided not to cut it up just to get loose. After several minutes of fumbling, left hand work, the bait came free from the webbing.


Now we were free from the life jacket and net, but the fish and I still shared the same treble. Normally, you just jerk a hook backwards out of the fish. That meant I would be jerking a honking large hook also buried in my hand. I had to find a better way. I decided I needed my pliers. Where were they? They weren’t in the holder I had specifically installed on the boat to hold them. Oh - they were on the front boat deck where I used them on a previous fish. The upset and flopping fish and I went forward to retrieve them. I reminded the fish of our earlier discussion.


 Pliers in hand, I considered several approaches. All threatened to jerk my finger off or to drive the hook more firmly into my finger joint. The only solution was to hold the Spook in my right hand and jerk my hand, the Spook and the hook in the same direction at the same time. At first, the fish refused to lie still enough. We spoke again. I was probably a bit harsh. Eventually, after several painful attempts, I got the fish, the pliers, and hand jerk coordinated and yanked the bait from the fish. I put her back in the lake. Good riddance.


Now free of everything else, I looked more closely at the finger. The point was embedded straight down into the joint. The push through method wasn’t going to work without professional help. There was more daylight and the fish were biting, but my day was ended and I wasn’t happy.


As the boat approached my slip at the marina, new problems became obvious. My boat is not very responsive at slow speed. Docking the boat requires a last instant dog leg left with a simultaneous wheel turn and throttle adjustment. That evening I was hurting and one handed. I cut the motor and turned the wheel. It was clear the boat would hit the post at the side of my slip. I scurried forward to fend off the collision. I reached across my body with my left hand and pushed. The boat still kissed the post soundly. Too soundly. It was a good thing I hadn’t taken my life vest off when I was hooked to it.


The water was surprisingly warm for May but still chilly. Instinctively, I reached for the dock and the boat rail with each hand. Shucks. Double Darn.  The right one was still impaled. Hanging left handed from the boat rail, I kicked until I could maneuver the boat into the slip. Next, I slithered and leveraged myself up the dock cross beams until I was out of the water.


It took nearly twice as long as usual to tie off the boat, plug in the air pump and raise the boat, load the rods in my carrier, plug in the battery charger, and do all those other right handed things. I sloshed up to the truck. Just as I arrived, Bill, the guy with the slip next to me drove up. Where was he when I was in the water? As he got out, he asked me if the fish were biting. He didn’t ask about the wet clothes or the Zara Spook in my hand. He only asked what they were hitting. I probably should have called him and apologized for telling him they were taking jigs at twenty feet.


Once I was in the truck, the challenges just kept coming. The engineers who designed manual transmission cars and trucks did not envision my predicament. Drivers use their right hands to put on their seatbelts. The key switch is on the right hand side of the steering column. The shifter is made for right hands. Each of these facts did not allow for a big hook deep in your finger and a bulky plastic lure dangling from that hook. The hospital was only about ten miles away, but those ten miles were hilly, two lane miles with stops, starts, and downshifts. The distance seemed much longer that evening.


Still wet and dripping, I entered the hospital emergency room. I waded to the counter and started to speak to the lady engrossed in her bodice ripper novel. Without looking up, she slapped a clipboard on the rail in front of me.


“Fill that out.”


No hello.


No “How may I help you?”


Just “Fill that out.”


I explained to her that I couldn’t, “Fill that out.” My hand was full of hooks. Using the same calm, controlled voice I had used with the fish, I asked her if farm accident amputees had to “Fill that out.”


My new, unimpressed hospital friend arranged a small, cold room for me. Thirty shivering minutes later, a teenager in scrubs came in the room. My first impulse was to tell him I didn’t need a bed pan change. Turned out he was the doctor. He looked at my hand and asked if I had caught a big one. Then he wanted to know how I managed to set the hook so well. Next he wanted to know why I was all wet. Every time I answered him, he burst into laughter. He shot my finger full of lidocaine, backed the hook up and pushed the black steel through.  Smugly, he clipped the barb off and backed the bend out. When he finished, he wrapped the wound with gauze and slipped a condom over it, “to keep it dry until you get home.” Then he started cackling again. I’m sure the hours doctors spend on duty must make them punchy.


I took my precious, customized Spook, now short a hook, with me when I left.


Driving home was much more comfortable, but it was nearly ten thirty before I walked in my door. Without looking up, my wife asked, “Did you enjoy the fishing?”


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