Tales from the Cabin
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Hooked on Fishing

Catch of the day is a big surprise

By Paul Sullivan
Published: July 1, 2007

Why’d you cast into that tree, Honey?” asked my fiancée, Nancy, whose only prior fishing was for compliments. “Is that something I want to practice?” she teased.
It was a hot, August afternoon at Illinois’ White Pines State Park, and I was teaching my beloved how to fish. Later, I hoped to teach her how to clean fish. “No, Precious,” I said, as patiently as I had shown her how to tie a fisherman’s Palomar knot earlier in the day. “Practice staying out of the trees.”
Nancy wanted to watch me fish for a few minutes to get the idea of it, which gave me an opportunity to show off my casting skill. I knew a spot in Pine Creek where largemouth bass liked to hang on a hot day up against a stone cliff in the shade of overhanging trees. Casting to them was like throwing darts.
On my first bull’s-eye cast, a bass lazily followed my yellow Mepps spinner. Hmm, maybe the wrong color. On my second cast, I missed the dart board altogether and snagged the cussed branch. Under my breath, I muttered a single, four-letter technical term fishermen use to describe such situations.
On our way to the park, I had told Nancy the old joke about fishing being a jerk on one end of the line waiting for a jerk on the other. Now, attempting to flip the Mepps off the branch, I jerked the line and succeeded only in snagging the Mepps tighter. I was going to have to break it off. Bye-bye Mepps. “Okay, Nancy, watch. This is what you do when all else fails.”
I tightened the line, took a step backward and yanked hard. The Mepps came zinging back at my face like a bullet. Instinctively, I ducked. Just not quickly enough. The yellow bullet struck me just above my right ear, blasting one of the treble hooks straight into my skull. I tugged on it gently. Nancy examined her catch. “Does it hurt?” she said.
It didn’t. And it wasn’t bleeding either. Though it sure was stuck, stuck, stuck. Right at my sweaty hairline. Nancy said the dangling spinner looked like a large earring or a gaudy body piercing. I was in need of someone in medical garb to unhook this unwelcome jewelry.
In the lobby of the E.R., I bent down to look at the tropical fish in the aquarium. Several darted towards my yellow earring. Yep, evidently the right color. A nurse smiled and chuckled at me playing with the fish until she suddenly realized I wasn’t wearing a fishing hat.
“You’re a real prize,” said the E.R. doctor, who had unhooked many fishermen. Delicately, he sliced away at my scalp for forty minutes and then handed my lure back to me with a little fresh blood on the bucktail.

As we walked out of the hospital arm in arm, Nancy said, “If that’s what they call catch and release, I don’t care. I’m still keeping you.”
Paul Sullivan lives in St. Charles, Ill., where he catches trees along the rivers.   

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