Friday, November 28, 2014

Reflections from My Trail - The End of an Argument (A Fishing Tale)

By Charlie Pottenger

Wisconsin about 1968, Dad and I were up and on the lake before dawn and were witnessing another of God’s miracle mornings. Mist was rising from the warm water on a dewy July morning and we were casting huge lures over submerged weedy reefs in search of giant muskies.

These savage, pike-like fish are extremely hard to catch, but the explosiveness of their strike and the strength of their desire to escape make them one of the great American game fish, similar to the heavy fighting steelhead and salmon of the Clearwater.

As dawn progressed and changed the eerie silence of the calm predawn to the splash of light on the water, we cast into the rising sun and my Dad’s surface lure whirred and gurgled in the invisible glare. Nearing the boat with about three feet of line left there was an explosion in the water and Dad’s hands were stripped of his expensive rod and casting reel.

He looked dumbfounded at his empty hands and said, “Sh**ty! Sh**ty!” At the other end of the boat I shouted, “I told you so!”

Thus an ongoing argument between us was resolved. Over hundreds of happy vacation hours spent in the boat seeking these huge fighting fish we had noticed a major difference in the way we held our rods when retrieving the lures in hopes of one of those explosive strikes. The difference provided something to banter about during hour after hour of boring, non-productive sessions of fishing.

I maintained that the correct hold was to grab the rod with the left hand ahead of the reel and anticipate the strike so that the fish’s pull would only sink the rod deeper into the palm. Dad, on the other hand, maintained the rod was designed with a pistol grip so the left hand could comfortably hold it with the fingers only to resist the pull of the fish.

Day after day we rehashed the pros and cons of the proper grip and I always scoffed that someday a fish would steal his rod and prove my righteous position!

That wonderful morning I was finally justified and if Dad were still alive he would tell you that I made him remember that morning almost every time we were together thereafter.

To complete my story, I began gloating immediately! Dad was really sad to have lost his expensive rod, reel and lure plus a really nice musky. I joyfully ordered him to man the oars and get ready. “Get ready for what?” he exclaimed, trying to reestablish his fatherly authority.

Since I had a sinking lure I told him that the fancy star-drag reel he was using would catch in the weeds as the giant fish tried to rid itself of the pesky lure and sooner or later the fish would jump or surface, whereupon he should row like crazy so I could cast behind the fish, snag the line and ultimately catch the brute and reclaim the rod. He said, “Bullsh*t, son!”

Well, the fish surfaced, he rowed, I snagged the line and was able to pull the rod in. The fish was still on, Dad became overjoyed. He said, “Give me my rod!” I said, “Your rod? I just salvaged this rod and this now is my fish!”

I landed the fish, sold the rod back to my Dad for a dollar and had proof that his way of holding the rod was wrong!

This is my favorite fish story and I think of it often. I highly recommend all anglers with casting rods seeking heavy fish heed this advice. I must report that Dad never changed and caught many more muskies with his poor technique, but he never was allowed to forget.

My recommended grip while retrieving a casting reel in search of heavy fish. 
My Dad’s recommended grip while retrieving a casting reel in search of heavy fish, which doesn’t always work.

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