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I’d Rather Be Fishing

With April 19 coming, these are taxing days for me

Give a man a fish; he will have a meal,
Teach a man to fish; he will have many meals.

This old Chinese proverb is just one reason to go fishing — though if a mix of rockfish and Maryland are to be the topic, it won’t be appropriate until April 19, which is opening day of the state’s spring trophy season. Until then, it’s catch and release; all stripers have to go back into the brine.

No meals, memories only.

I have many memories concerning wetting a hook; though I’m in my early 80s, Lord willing, there’s room for at least a few more. Fishing is my life.

Eating the catch, I have to admit is not.

In my opinion, there’s only one way to eat fin-fish, and that is by frying, preferably via lard or salt pork, both of which you don’t see much of in these days of eating for health, not for the joys of taste.

I need not remind regular readers that I’m of country stock, born when Calvin Coolidge was president. He was a fisherman, and among his favorite fish was the pickerel, better known hereabouts as pike. The Great Depression was near its dawn. When it came, many would fish to put some food on the table of hungry families.

Times were tough, salt pork and lard were cheap — and a fresh fish rolled in equally inexpensive flour and fried in salt pork and lard was tasty and crunchy. But as we go through life, things change. And if we are to survive, we, too, must change.

My Opening Day Jinx

My change came in 1988 when, at age 62, I underwent bypass surgery at the then University of Maryland hospital. When I checked out a week later, my friend, fellow outdoorsman and cardiologist Larry Stafford, turned from our usual flippant chit-chat to serious talk, the dos and don’ts after open-heart surgery. Sixty-two years of fried foods had sent me the hospital, and I had a choice: Cut them completely out of my diet and keep on living and fishing. Or continue as I had been doing and miss out on many an angling junket in the future.

It was farewell to my favorite fish and chips doused with vinegar, fried trout streamside, bacon with eggs: the good foods of life.

I did my best to comply, but I must admit I broke the rules, yielded to temptation a few times, the last of which was at the time of the trophy-season opener last year. I had just been released from the hospital after my second mild heart attack and joined wife Lois and Alan Doelp and his wife Carol for a late lunch at a fancy Severna Park restaurant, where I decided I’d have my last fling at fish and chips. A grand farewell, you might say. I had learned my lesson. Or had I?

The next morning, I was set to go fishing. But it was no boat that I rode that morning; instead an ambulance with siren wailing: my third mild heart attack and second consecutive year to miss opening day.

I’m determined things won’t come in threes. Come hell or high water, I’m going fishing this opening day. Period.

Chores Be Damned

Wife Lois reminds me the storm door needs to be refitted, the deadfall branches on the lawn are waiting to be picked up, the leftover leaves raked — and it’s time for granddaughter Grumpy and I to start working on our planned pumpkin patch. In previous years when such honey-do projects were laid out, I spent many a sleepless night trying to conjure up excuses. After all, preparing for opening day requires much time — with little left for uprooting dandelions or hanging more bird houses from the trees.

I already have a couple dozen homes for birds in the big lawn and about the same number of feeders, so those chores I can put off to accommodate late arrival birdlife.

So this year I’m avoiding as much physical labor as possible in hopes of avoiding a fall or overexertion, anything that could prompt a replay of the past two opening days. Instead, I’m busy at a desk, getting my taxes ready for my accountant, and what can go wrong there? The way I look at it, if the Lord wanted man to waste his time on the lawn, why did He, in the beginning, create two or three times more water than land?

Is There Fishing in the Afterlife?

As I write on April’s Fool Day, I am reminded of the angler whose love for his sport is not alien to my own zest.

Seems there was this senior Izaak Walton who liked nothing better in life than wetting a hook. As the years progressed, he began to worry about not death itself but whether the ultimate end would end his beloved sport. Would heaven have fish?

He asked the deacon of the church. Getting no satisfaction, he asked same of the preacher. He read the Bible with a fine-toothed comb and found not a clue. He was getting depressed. How could heaven be heaven if in afterlife there were no fish to catch? He was getting desperate.

One night while driving through Baltimore he spied a neon sign that read Tell Your Fortune, $20. He promptly parked the car, entered and told the gypsy his dilemma. She said she could help, took his 20 bucks and told him to sit on the other side of her crystal ball and put his hands on the table.

She mumbled some words, the lights dimmed, then came lightning-like flashes and the rumble of thunder. He could feel the table bounce. The gypsy went into a trance, then all was quiet. The lights came back on, the table was at rest. “Tell me, tell me. Did you find out?” he asked anxiously.

“I have good news and bad news,” she responded, “Which would you like to hear first?”

“The good news,” said the fisherman without hesitation. “Then I’ll be braced for the bad news.”

“Okay” said the gypsy. “Heaven is filled with waters filled with hungry fish — and you can buy a fishing license good for eternity for just one dollar.”

“With news like that, what could the bad news be?” asked the giddy angler.

“You’re buying your license tomorrow,” said the solemn fortune teller.

As for me, I’ll trust in the Lord. Enough said.

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