Last week our friends Caryn & Chris took us fly fishing on North South Lake in the Catskills. North South Lake is just East Northwest of South North Lake, only more so. We were in a canoe, and they were in a little dinghy, which seems like more of a description than a noun.
We have never been fly-fishing before, and never fished at all in a canoe, which is an either/oar situation. Don’t ask us if we got any bites, because you really don’t have to fish for the flies at all- they come right over to you and bite the crap out of you. Chris explained that the fly is used to catch the fish, which is a shame because I can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, except in center field.
I asked what we were supposed to do with the fish if we caught one, because I don’t eat anything with bones. Unless the fish is such a friggin coward that it is basically a spineless jellyfish, I won’t touch it. I might consider a peanut-butter-and-spineless-jellyfish sandwich. But Chris assured us that this is a catch-and-release lake. I wasn’t sure if there was a “happy ending” or anything like that involved, so I just kept my mouth shut and kept rowing.
I told my wife that she could just sit back and look pretty, and I would do all the rowing. After traveling in a large circle 22 times, I realized that you had to alternate sides. So I rowed once in the front and once in the back. Luckily the wind blew us over to the side where we couldn’t do much harm.
The very first thing that I almost caught actually ate the lure, the sinker and the hook, possibly on a bet. Chris looked a little pissed- he said it was an expensive lure. I asked why don’t you use real flies? They’re free! All you have to do is catch them! He shot me a look that I interpreted as: “The fish are supposed to catch the flies- that’s how the food chain works.”
He fitted the line with this thing that I swear looked like a small dustmop, and I’m thinking this will appeal to a fish that is a real neat freak- I figured I was done for the day.
The next thing that happened was that I cast the line far and wide, and the top of the pole came off and went flying into the lake- no one told me it was supposed to come off so you could fold it up. So I spent the next half an hour going through the tackle box trying to figure out what might attract the top of a fishing pole.
After I got the pole back together I finally caught a fish. It was a large-mouth bass. You can tell this fish immediately in the field, because it started dishing about its in-laws. Unfortunately only its mouth is large, the rest of it is puny, so even though I wanted to take it home and stuff it, they made me throw it back. I asked Chris if he ever mounted his fish, and he dialed something on his phone that looked like 911.
Then I caught a catfish, which Chris & Caryn told me was a fluke. I said make up your mind. They meant that is rare, so I sent it back until it was well done. If a catfish is anything like my cat at home it will chase a fly for its entire life expectancy, which is one day. Then the fly dies of natural causes and the cat struts around like Lady Gaga.
After that I caught about 20 pounds of seaweed, which I have to say puts up a hell of a fight. The trick is to let it tire itself out as you give it some line, and reel it in slowly- don’t give up any slack. Once you get it into the boat it’s as valid a meal as any fish, at least for vegetarians. I also caught a stick, but that’s not going to make you a big hero- I’m just glad it didn’t run off with another lure.
The whole time I was living in abject fear that I would wind up and catch their dingy on my backswing, puncturing the pontoon and perforating their pleasure craft. But when I looked over at them, they were fighting with some kind of sea serpent or something that actually took Chris overboard, along with their lunch. I have to tell you I just started rowing and didn’t stop till I reached Ulster County.
Incidentally, If fishing in New York State you are required to have a fishing license in your possession unless you are under 16 years old. Which means that you don’t have a driver’s license, and probably cannot afford a boat, so it’s probably best to float there. If you are fishing for an “alewife” you will probably need a fishing license, a marriage license and a liquor license. I will send a gift.
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