The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

July 13, 2011

VALLEY: Huckleberry fish hound

The Journal-Register


A couple of weeks ago I was in my boat fishing in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. The boat is a modest 17-foot craft — I bought it from my friend Ralph. It has fewer bells and whistles than a piece of cheese, but it’s mine and it floats.

I was positioned in my “go-to” spot and comfortable in my own little world. I had my dog, Maggie, a transistor radio with the Yankee game on and a cooler with beverages and snacks. Life is good but some days are better than others and this was one of those days.

I’d been anchored for awhile when two boats approached. Each had a couple of guys aboard and it was apparent that they were together. Both vessels were fancy looking rigs. Neither looked familiar.

Most of the time, I recognize the boats from the area from the mere fact that I see them on a regular basis. I don’t necessarily know all of the owners personally but there is a common bond — an unspoken camaraderie and acknowledgment — that exists with those on the river. It’s a “we’re all in this together” approach that ingrains civility as a way of life. Good neighbors make everything less complicated.

Back to the story. I was near a small island and both boats decided to anchor and fish close by. No problem. But, apparently, these guys weren’t river-savvy enough to know that I could hear every word they were saying. (If you aren’t aware, a person’s voice carries quite well when you’re on the water.)

They talked back and forth between the boats and I heard one of them say, “Check the huckleberry out over there with the dog.” An obvious reference to me.

I never let on that I could hear them as their condescending remarks continued. “I haven’t seen him make one cast. He’s waiting for the fish to jump in his boat.” They all laughed.

Apparently, my angling style didn’t match up to the way they learned from watching fishing shows on TV. They were casting lures a mile a minute as I just sat there with my line in the water. They found it humorous. But so what?

Understand that I have nothing against the way they fished. I do it that way, myself, occasionally — but only when I feel ambitious.

“He’s fishing the lazy man’s way,” one guy philosophized to his comrades. “You’ve got to work at it, if you expect to catch fish.”

But you see, that’s where Aristotle-the-sailor-man and I differ. The words “fishing” and “work” should never be used in the same sentence. Never! They don’t go together. Period!

A little later, one of them confided, “I can’t get any bites at all. I’m using a strawberry-colored spoon called Hotshiner. What color are you using?”

“A peach-colored spinner called the Rattler. Got a bunch of them from Walmart using my credit card. But there’s no fish here, either.”

Now there’s another thing. I always thought strawberry and peach were fruits — not colors. But that’s just me.

It was time for me to pull anchor and leave. But I wasn’t slipping away quietly. Talking to the dog loud enough so that these knuckleheads could hear me I said to Maggie, “C’mon girl. Time to get back to shore and clean these whoppers.”

I then leaned over and I lifted my stringer full of huge fish into the boat — making sure they saw my every move.

“Hey Mister,” one of the wide-eyed on-lookers yelled over to me, “Did you catch all of those here?”

Understand that a fisherman seldom tells where he catches his fish, but I had to ... just this once. “Sure did. How many have you guys caught?”

“What were you using for bait?” they asked.

“A chocolate-caramel colored little gizmo called a night-crawler! Got a bunch of them from the ground using my flashlight.”

Somewhat embarrassed, one of them added, “That’s it?”

“Nope. Sometimes I use a hook with colored beads just above the worm.”

“What color are the beads?”

I couldn’t resist. “Huckleberry!”

And that’s the way it looks from the Valley.