We Ain’t Right

Life On The Back Page - June 2016

Daryl Gay | June 13, 2016

It is a little-known fact, very likely proven via reams of some egghead’s psychiatrical conglomerationism, that fishermen don’t think like normal people.

Me neither. Think like normal people, that is. But then, I’m a fisherman.

I rest my case.

Not really. Because if I did, there would be a lot of empty white space on this page, one very unhappy editor gnawing a frothy pencil, and you’d be left even more confused than you are to this point.

And so, basically, just know that if it hadn’t been for the crickets, none of this would have even come up.


Irascible. Good word. Means “prone to outbursts of temper.” Waste makes me irascible. So do 100-plus-degrees temperatures. Combine the two and I’m in line for the Tantrum HOF.

As any fisherman will tell you—although it may come toward the end of a very long tale—catching fewer bream than you have crickets is always the fault of the cricket seller. The guy, bless his heart, is too magnanimous for his own bottom line.

Either that or he failed second grade six times.

One other possible cause of the cricket-bream ratio remaining in the red is that said fisherman simply ran out of time and departed—kicking and screaming—with bait still in the box. Typically, there is a single cause for this. And it’s a humdinger known as “responsibility.”

As Ma would say, “I ain’t studying it.”

It’s also quite likely that there are other causes; fishermen are pretty good at thinking up stuff.

Given time.

I’m saying there were less than 20 crickets left in the box. And, if you must know, more than 20 bream in the cooler. But it’s really, really hard on a true fisherman to simply set crickets free by slinging the box toward the shrubbery.

I know birds gotta eat, but let ’em catch their own…

So while staring at the chirpers and sweating fit to muddy up the yard, my fisherman’s mind came up with one of those “EUREKA!” solutions: “Let’s go catch more fish! But why stop there? Use those fish to catch even more fish!”

The way I got it figured, it won’t take 20 crickets; all I need is ‘bout half a 5-gallon bucket of hand-sized bream.

We’ll zip to the river, hit that little creek just up from the landing, catch said bream/bait, then motor down to The Spot.

None of your business what Spot. Did I mention it was hot? Know what happens on a June full moon when it’s hot?

Stripers happen.

They happen to come up into our freshwater rivers. They happen to enjoy crunching on bream. And I happen to near ’bout bust new holes in my gourd simply for the opportunity to haul back on even one or two a year.

I LOVE hot weather!

See what I mean?

Here’s a watered-down synopsis of how this whole shebang works: put a tiny hook in a cricket and feed him to a bream. Put a huge hook in a bream and feed him to a striped bass.

Needless to say, crickets and bream aren’t exactly huge fans of the process. Neither are the stripers once they’ve discovered the bream’s totin’ a switchblade.

And man, is it fun when they do! I’m not kidding about one or two a year. Some years are better than others, but it’s like hunting big bucks: once he’s spotted, all the wait is worth it.

So I’m sitting semi-comatose in the back of the boat and the hooked bream has been bouncing around on the river bottom for an hour now, smack-dab in the middle of The Spot.

Without warning, the tip of the big—believe it—rod rattles a loud “KAWHACK” while bouncing off the aluminum boat’s rail.

Don’t panic! (Yeah, right.)

Give him time, give him time, let him gobble that bluegill, reel up the slack s-l-o-w-l-y and g-e-n-t-l-y…

Then split your spleen slamming the rod backward and the hook home!

It’s highly likely you’ll feel him on the other end of the line at this point. Should you wet your pants, you can always blame it on splashing river water.

Or, as happens about as often as not, all seems limp. If the reel’s drag is properly set, or if you have wisely thumbed it off to let him run with no tension, there may be nothing but anxiety.

Until you see him jump. Downstream. Waaayy downstream. You simply will not believe it until you DO see it, and I can not overemphasize it.

There have been times I would have sworn the fish was 10 feet behind the boat and a 30-pounder rockets out of the water 50 yards downstream.

Or maybe it’s 40 pounds and 60 yards. Or 50 and 70. The record, by the way, is over 60 pounds.

And when that initial leap comes and your eyeballs lock on to him for the first time, feel free to irrigate your shorts with glee because stripers do strange things to a man’s bladder…

Not to mention his back and shoulders. I’ve caught bull reds in the salt. Big ones. And have never been able to decide whether they were stouter than stripers.

But then, that’s the way fishermen think. And it’s a great dilemma to haggle about.

And speaking of dilemmas, my boys pitched around the pond yesterday. Hope they didn’t run out of crickets…

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