There is such a thing as a bad day fishing
Personally, I can't think of a better way to relax than to spend a day lakeside, riverside or on the boat, in 95 degree temperatures, 85 percent humidity, sweltering under a fog of bug spray, slathered in SPF 5000 sunblock, eating sunflower seeds with fingers that smell like a combination of fish slime, chicken liver, night crawler juice and baby wipes, and watching an array of fishing poles for a tell-tale twitch.
If this sounds like your kind of day, we can be friends.
The angling adage of the ages says, “A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work,” and, for the most part, this is true — depending on what your definition of a bad day fishing is.
Maybe for you, a bad day fishing is when you catch nothing, get a birds nest in your spincaster, shove two thirds of a treble hook through your thumb and lose three or four lures to a submerged something.
Yes, that does sound bad, but for me, it still qualifies as a good day fishing because I have enough experience to put a day like that in true perspective.
I grew up fishing... I don’t remember learning to fish anymore than I remember learning to walk or talk... there simply is no conscious memory of doing it for the first time.
My earliest memories of fishing are of Dad and I trolling the waters of a lake in the mountains about 20 miles from our home in New Mexico, in a shiny aluminum boat he called his Cadillac.
The boat was old and, based on family photos, he had it long before I was around.
The old outboard on that boat was reliable, but it sputtered and wobbled at regular intervals and I remember sitting in that boat for hours as we slowly trolled the lake, listening to that idling motor, the sounds of its inner rattles creating music, drumbeats and cadences in my head.
I had forgotten all about that boat until one day in the 1980's I was listening to a radio show and the interviewer was talking with Pete Townshend, lead writer and guitarist for The Who. When asked what inspired his unique style of music, Townshend told a story of spending hours in a motor boat, puttering through the canals of southern England when he was 11 and the idling outboard created such amazing and complex rhythms that he fell into a trance. He said he has been trying to duplicate that music ever since.
Today, when I listen to “Baba O’Riley” I hear an outboard motor — and now, so will you — you’re welcome.
Back to fishing… Dad always had one boat or another, each one a little bigger than the last and they all had their pros and cons.
The pros? They floated on water. The cons? They had a motor.
If you’ve ever owned a boat in your life, especially one with a motor, you know that the word B. O. A. T. is actually an acronym meaning, Break Out Another Thousand.
And, if you've been around boats long enough, you also understand that no matter how careful you are, at some point, while on your boat, things will go wrong.
When I was about 14 or 15 years old, Dad had traded up a couple times and was the proud owner of a late 60s, 18-foot fiberglass tub powered by a gigantic Evinrude that looked like a spaceship. He had owned that boat for about three months and he and I were on the largest lake in New Mexico, having a great day fishing as we chasing hungry white bass back and forth across the main channel of the lake.
It was a full-on frenzy… we were catching fish as fast as we could get them off the hook, so like responsible boaters, we completely ignored the weather and continued to fill the bottom of the boat with white bass until we realized that the water had turned steely black and the storm was on us.
We were miles from our camp, so I buttoned up the boat as Dad turned into the wind and started motoring toward the camper.
The surface of the lake boiled into wind-driven three and four foot white caps that pounded the old tri-hull so hard Dad slowed to a gentler speed and we settled in for what we expected to be about 30 minutes of tipping and bobbing over the waves in the wind and rain.
Still, it was a good day fishing... we had a ton of fish in the boat and a small beef roast that we had buried in the Dutch oven that morning waiting for us back at camp.
When we were about a quarter mile from camp there came a sickening crunch, and the boat shuddered to a stop.
The sound of the motor was replaced by the wind and rain hitting the canvas top.
Looking toward the stern, all I saw was the roiling lake.
The fiberglass and wood transom across the back of the boat had failed and the motor and transom were completely gone. The motor had simply torn off the back of the boat and disappeared into the water, which was now rushing in through what used to be back of the boat.
This was rapidly shaping up to be an actual bad day fishing.
Dad and I donned our Mae West life vests and he keyed up his hand-held marine radio and literally sent out an SOS.
By the time help came, in the form of a couple of other fishermen who had been caught in the storm, Dad's little boat was completely swamped, but showed no signs of actually sinking, so we transferred ourselves and a cooler full of fish to the rescue boat, which towed the remains of Dad's boat to the nearest cove where we secured it to the shore.
By the time our rescuers got us back to our own camp, it was nearly dark.
Hey, we still had that pot roast. We dug the Dutch oven out of the coals and when Dad opened the lid, the only thing left of that little roast was a pile of ashes and a little round black bone.
Dad said things that weren’t very nice.
We packed up and drove the camper to the marina for a burger and Dad made arrangements to salvage his wrecked boat.
The moral of this story is, never say there is no such thing as a bad day fishing.
Thanks for reading