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The Fishing Partner

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The Fishing Partner
The Fishing Partner
by Richard A. Spear
Fishing has always been a love/hate source of recreation for me. Taking some time off from the pressures and responsibilities to do something just for myself is a rare opportunity and to go fishing can be both a diversion and unbelievably frustrating. Sometimes I even have to remind myself that I am having fun.

Though going alone can be rewarding, I feel that to fully enjoy the experience, a fisherman needs a partner, and fishing with a partner can add a degree of friendly competitiveness to the experience.
The contests in fishing are a lot like filling football statistics: who catches the first fish, the most fish, the biggest fish, the smallest fish, the most different kinds of fish, the real fish (Blue-gill don't count), and then the competition turns to who has the best rig, the best bait, the best knot, the best line weight, and on and on. I miss out on all of this if I don't have a partner.

The success of any trip depends on the preparation and it is no less so for fishing. My partner loves to tinker with boat motors and having the motor run-ready has always been his responsibility. Every trip we have ever made with the boat has always included the assurance that the motor is "running like a clock" and it never is.
I remember one trip that took three hours to get to the lake. The launch ramp was just a shallow soft incline into the lake. We had serious doubts about being able to pull the boat back out without sinking the van to its axle. We launched our boat anyway and made it about a mile across the lake and began fishing.

The fish weren't interested and we decided to find a better location before dark. After shoving out into the cove we attempted to restart the motor but the battery was dead.

No problem, we always carried an extra battery when night fishing, often borrowed from the church bus or some extra vehicle setting around, for just such emergencies. We had left the battery back in the van.

No problem, we can pull-start the motor. My partner, being a powerful man, broke the pull rope on the first tug. No problem, we'll just pull the top off and reattach the rope. We had left the toolbox back at the boat ramp.

No problem, with the boat oars we can row the boat to a better fishing location. We searched the boat and could only find one oar and we had no idea where its mate was. No problem, it will be difficult moving an eighteen-foot heavy duty Bayliner with only one oar but we are committed and the night was still young. The oar, our last great hope, broke on the first stroke and the paddle end floated out of reach as we sit there dumb-founded.

No problem, on the trip up my partner had purchased three stadium seats and we could make use of these to propel the boat. It was now after sunset, totally dark, with no moon. The lake was unimproved, without lights or reference to where the dock was, and the lights on the boat were worthless with our dead battery. No problem.

We are confident we can reach the dock in the dark, after all real men are never lost and always know where they are going. We set out, one on each side of the boat, stroking away with the chairs.
Within the first few seconds my partner lost his grip and his chair sank out of sight. No problem, we had a third chair and since this was no longer funny I admonished him: "Don't EVER do that again."
The chairs worked better than we imagined, by holding the back with one hand we could dip the seat into the water, and with each stroke, we made good time.

Being every bit as good a man as my partner, I became sorely vexed that he could dip three strokes to my ten and still keep the boat straight. I rowed until my arm hurt and I was out of breath, all the while my partner was having a leisurely time looking around and making an occasional stroke. It was more than I could stand.
Coming close to wimping out and wanting to retain some dignity, I mildly suggested we change sides so we could make better progress. This time I would be using my dominant arm. My partner stated that he was fine but if I really needed to, we could change sides. It is important among real men to not let other men get the upper hand or even appear to be equal.

Much relieved with changing sides I soon noticed that I was stroking two to three times for every ten strokes or so of my partner. Having so much fun watching my partner stressing out, I at first didn't realize there was a problem with the boat. The boat should not have been that out of balance.

After looking the boat over I made an important discovery, "'think we would make better progress if we took the motor out of the water?" It was fun watching the expression on my partner's face. How two grown men could be so dense was not something we wanted to discuss. We had rowed half way across the lake dragging the heavy prop and its fins in the water like an anchor.
By now we were close to where we had landed the boat. There were a number of camp trailers and motor homes belonging to more affluent fishermen, the kind who have nice equipment that really works, near the landing site. Through the glow of a couple of camp lights we were able to reach the shore at the launch site.
By now it was well after midnight and all was quiet. While standing in water up to my chest as I lined up the boat, my partner went after the van and boat trailer. Just as we figured, the boat was too heavy to pull out and we sank the van well into the mud. No problem.

We began building a more solid tire path with driftwood, rocks and unclaimed firewood. We jacked the van back out of the mud and congratulated ourselves on our impromptu engineering feat. We were now ready to overcome gravity, mud, and an overweight boat.
With great expectations of driving away victorious we both climbed into the van. My partner started the van up and we had just begun putting tension on the trailer when the van died. Perplexed as to what was the problem, we soon came to the conclusion that we were out of gas. At this we were quite surprised, we had filled the tank before the trip and because of its large capacity we were confident that we would make a complete round trip without refueling. No problem.

We had a full five-gallon gas can so all we had to do was empty it into the van's fuel tank and we would be on our way. As my partner was pouring in the fuel, the gas began to poor back out of the van's fuel inlet after about 1 gallon out of the can. We were not out of gas; the tank was still quite full.

We next checked the fuel pump and sure enough it was not pumping fuel. We decided that the fuel line might be clogged and while examining it we discovered a flaw in the engineering of the fuel system. The fuel line was attached to the front of the tank and, though the tank was near full, at the angle the van was at, the fuel line was sucking air and not fuel. No problem.

We could detach the fuel line from the gas tank and reroute it into the cab of the van and down into what was left in our five-gallon gas can. Then by priming the carburetor with fuel dispensed out of a soda-pop can we would be able to start the van and the fuel pump would then be able to draw fuel from the five gallon can and we then would be able to pull the boat out of the water and up the hill to dry flat ground where we could shut off the van and while one of us put our finger over the van's tank outlet hole the other could reroute the fuel line back to where it belonged and after it was reattached we would be as good as new and ready to go home.
No problem and there is nothing like a good plan.

My partner never owned for long any personal vehicle that he couldn't defy its engineering parameters and make run. His achievements were often heralded with spectacular backfires through the carburetor. It was as if it were his own personal repudiation of overpriced garage mechanics with overrated skills.
Needless to say I wanted nothing to do with sitting next to an open gas can in a confined space with a violently backfiring carburetor. I magnanimously volunteered to stand outside and supervise our progress.

My partner fired up the engine and the fun began. With the engine roaring and the right rear tire burning rubber and an occasional backfire thrown in, the boat might as well been a hippo stuck in the mud. We needed more help to push our problem up and out of the lake. No problem.

By now, overcome with curiosity partly induced by the noise that woke the dead, we had accumulated a small crowd of onlookers who were more than willing to help us on our way. Our volunteers were a bedraggled bunch in various states of half dress, deprived of sleep and bleary eyed. They were quite enthused about shoving something and the van and boat answered their need.
Committed to helping us on our way we were soon out of the lake and up on flat ground. I quickly slid under the van and plugged the orifice leaking gas out of the gas tank. My partner quickly secured the gas line and in a few moments we were as good as new. There was just one casualty as my partner had become the proud new owner of a pocket knife purchased while on our trip, it had become forever lost to him in his endeavors with the fuel line.
Our enthusiastic volunteers had melted into the dark to their prospective campers and warm beds and we didn't even get a chance to thank them. I had noticed a couple of them walking away shaking their heads and felt badly about not expressing our gratitude.

It was now quite late in this backwater community and still a moonless night. Even though we were returning home sooner than expected, we both felt we had received our full measure of entertainment for our trip. About five miles into our return trip I noticed that the headlights were rather dim. I made a casual comment due to being concerned that we would inadvertently bring home more deer or beef than we had ever planed to capture in fish.
My partner stated that he had noticed that his alternator gauge was showing no output but he didn't seem to be overly concerned due in part, I'm sure, to not taking as important the expected task of reconnecting all the wires in the engine compartment after making repairs. After, all real men often fail to value the necessity of nuisance indicators that distract from their self-worth as master mechanics. In other words, not having a working alternator gauge is no big deal.

But this problem seemed to be quite real; the alternator was dead. In the tradition of the stalwart, we shut down the heater fan to conserve whatever electricity was remaining in the battery. Just because we were soaking wet and the night was cool was no excuse to be self-indulgent by siphoning off electricity just for creature comforts. To prolong the life of the battery we also shut off our lights. We easily compensated the problem of not being able to see where we were going by my rolling down my window and shining a flashlight ahead into the dark. This gave us the comfort of at least thinking we could see where we were going.

The windshield was long past due for a proper cleaning, a necessity that my partner rated with the same frequency as getting a haircut, if that often. So, to increase our margin of safety, I hung out the window to get a clearer view of where we were going. It was invigorating! The cold night air rushing to meet my face and permeating every inch of my wet body is a treat that truly has to be experienced to be fully enjoyed.

We had our situation under control and we were confident that the next town we came to would answer our needs. With the view of distant lights our battery finally discharged its last and we coasted to a stop. No problem, my partner quickly installed the spare battery that fate had left us fully charged and we were soon on our way.
The first small town had nothing to offer us. All night auto parts stores, service stations, or even the pillar of commerce, a twenty-four-hour Wal-Mart, had yet to grace this part of the world. We couldn't even find a bored cop to entertain with our exploits. Community after community rolled by with the silence of the night surrounding us. Before long the spare battery died and we coasted again to a stop.

We found ourselves perched beside the road, of all places, on a saddle, a bare ridge between two peaks. One of those places which are usually posted with the sign: "CAUTION HIGH WINDS MAY BE PRESENT." With no salvation before daylight expected, we climbed into the back of the van; though roomy, it was devoid of its rear seats, carpet or inside paneling that would have insulated us from the now cold night wind. An igloo would have been a welcome alternative. I curled up on the bare metal floor and passed out into blissful sleep.

Known only to those close to me, I have a talent that out shines everything else I can do. I snore. My wife is looked upon with great reverence because of this. When the women gather and compare their lot in life, she wins every contest with what a wife will have to endure to be with her mate. Of all the burdens and sacrifices that a married woman will present to her peers, my snoring puts her in a class all by herself. This talent was reaffirmed while I slept in the van. It drove my partner to the brink with ideas of how to get out of his predicament. Anything was better than staying in the van with me asleep. And sure enough, he came up a solution we had not thought of together.

My partner took the battery that had been in the boat and, with desperation; faith and a prayer believed it had rested long enough to start the van. I awoke to the roar of a racing engine and a resounding backfire. He's thrilled, I'm in shock and we are on our way. I have often thought that if he had secured a better connection to the battery while it was still in the boat we would have found that the battery was more than able to start the boat motor, but such things are better left undebated.

With renewed hope we cruised down out of the mountains and into the valley. Every moment bringing us closer to home and release. We almost made it.

About four miles from my partner's place, our last battery, drained of its final electron, brought us to a stop. No problem, all we had to do was find a phone and one of our spouses could come and rescue us. We were still in the country and the nearest phone was about a 1/8 of a mile away in a golf course clubhouse. While I remained with our possessions, my partner trotted off to call his wife. Forty minuets later he was back.

His wife, free of her lord and master for the morning, had fled the comforts of home and phone and could not be reached. I was a little irritated and asked if he had called my wife. For some unknown reason he had not. So without any understanding of his negligence I marched off to the golf course.

There is a feeling a man gets when wandering around a department store with no particular purpose and he wakes up to the realization that he is in the middle of the women's lingerie section and has absolutely no excuse. While all the ladies are dutifully engrossed in whatever they are doing, a man has invaded their domain and their conversations subside. They are on alert and watching for some hint of perversion, well prepared to escort their daughters to some other location. Filled with irritating embarrassment and trying not to show it, you beeline to some place with more metal such as automotive or hardware to hang out.

I was getting that same feeling as I walked up the steps to the clubhouse. I was very out of place. The clothes one puts on to go fishing have very little to do with aesthetics, warmth and comfort is the dress code of the day. Often the fisherman has a lucky shirt or hat to accent his attire or some other garment that is too good to throw away yet is not fit for polite society.

When you go fishing you go to the places other fisherman go to; bait shops, sporting goods stores, gas stations, lakeside diners, etc. and, as you are never far from your boat and fishing stuff, you fit right in.

There wasn't a stray fish for twenty miles of the clubhouse.
I was quite a sight. My fishing hat I had acquired from my partner years before. I shamed him into giving it to me after I discovered he had stored it during the off season with a fresh chunk of chicken liver riding on the brim, I explained that it needed a home where it would be loved and appreciated. It was a wool western style hat that fit me well and I had coveted it for a long time. The only other time I wore it was around the house doing early morning yard work. It was a lot more comfortable to wear than it was to look at.
I was semi-dry and looked like I had spent the night sleeping in a ditch. I needed a shave and a bath. Fishing tends to introduce one to fragrances that are only found near dairies and hog farms, and I smelled like I had brought both.

I managed to get inside the elegant entrance and take about two steps before I was discovered. With no women about to protect at this early hour, the gentlemen in the lobby quickly defaulted to a stance that placed themselves between their wallets and me. A couple of them even had the foresight of appearing to closely inspect a particular golf club, obviously looking for fly specks while rotating the club with their fingers, ever ready to deal with this scruffy looking intruder.
I tipped my hat in politeness to no one in particular and focused my eyes on the path as I walked to the front desk. I asked the wide-eyed desk clerk if I could use the phone. I mumbled something about having been on an overnight fishing trip and that my vehicle had broke down and I wished to call for assistance.

Greatly relieved that I was not planning to pay a green fee, he directed me to a phone. The rest of the crowd went back to their business, assured that I was not going to be a problem and a few even had that been-there-done-that look of condolence.
Before I finished dialing, the lobby had cleared out to the fresh outdoors, I even saw someone stop another golfer who was about to enter and redirect his efforts.

The poor clerk was busy shuffling paper as far down the counter as he could get while trying to breath through his mouth and politely not stare.

With my wife on the way, I thanked the clerk and hurried off the property to no one's regret.

We borrowed the battery out of my truck that was parked at my partner's home and soon our fishing trip came to an end. Fishing with a partner is much more rewarding than fishing alone, sometimes you even get to fish.

Of all the fishing trips I've taken, the trips with the best stories and memories are the ones that had a partner. If we ever recover from this trip we'll have to go again.
Copyright, 2000 Richard A. Spear 70-910-1904(S)
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