I've been fishing four times now this summer, but it wasn't until this time that I actually caught something. So keep that in mind:
Two Cowboys and a Katie the lady dropped lines into Lake Ashtabula Saturday as part of the Barnes County 18th Annual Bullhead Tournament.
Bullhead: also known as “mud pout", "horned pout" or “mud cat.” A bullhead is a dark, slimy “trash fish” that barks at its captors. Fish are foul enough, but this kind goobers all over AND has whiskers like a cat. Then, once the angler buckets the beast, the fish thrash around and bellow at each other. Many anglers consider it a trash fish as its meat is usually undesirable.
Note: In this story, Cowboy Jr., refers to the Cowboy you’ve met in blogs before. Cowboy Sr. refers to his father, whose nickname REALLY IS Cowboy. And now we enter the Twilight Zone.
Both Cowboys GUARANTEED I'd catch a fish this time, so I prepared myself for total bullhead domination. I pumped iron, drew black squigglies under my eyes and repeated affirmations like "I release my hesitation and make room for victory.”
The pressure was on.
So when I cast Ladyfish Shakespeare, I wanted to make sure I did it right.
Just drop the line in the water and let it drag until it hits the bottom. You’ll know because your line will stop moving, Cowboy Sr. said.
So I did.
The problem was, the boat was moving. So my line kept moving. And I never stopped it. For 10 whole minutes.
We must be really deep, I thought.
I asked Cowboy, Jr. if I’d done something wrong. If my line was in sight, I was blind to it. I'm no pro, but it just felt wrong.
Nope, it’s fine, he assured me.
But when the fishy monitor read 12 feet, it was clear. Something's up.
Hoping no one would notice, I started reeling in. Ten minutes later, Cowboy Sr. said MOVING ON, so everyone started reeling along with me. The Cowboys finished in under a minute. I took half an hour.
Finally, my line appeared in the horizon but seemed to leap like a skipped rock over water.
Hmm... that’s funny I thought. There’s supposed to be a weight on there. Why is it floating?
She’s got a fish! Cowboy, Sr. said.
And I had.
A baby bass.
I'm not sure how long little fishie held on while I reeled my line from the Pacific Ocean and back, but I drafted a letter to PETA offering my apologies. Cowboy Sr. threw him back, but it didn't matter.
I’d caught something.
But I had to catch more. Suddenly, I had a craving for it.
I yearned for another catch the way I yearn for frozen peanut butter balls.
Just one more and I'm done. Two more, I swear. I'll trade you my checking account for a peanut butter ball. I'll trade you MY CAR for a peanut butter ball. GIVE ME PEANUT BUTTER BALLS OR GIVE ME DEATH, DAMNIT.
Careful not to cast incorrectly, I focused on fishing as one of the boys adjusted my jigger and wormed my hook.
Children whined in the pontoon next to us. I need bait! Take this fish off! they cried.
Quiet! I shouted back. We, experienced anglers, need to concentrate.
Ladyfish and I stood shoulders back and head high. We focused on the task ahead like Tiger Woods on the 18th green. I dropped my line directly into the water, set my reel and cast my eyes to the mossy hills and mooing cows surrounding me. (How clean is that water? Anyone wanna swim?)
No sooner had hook hit bottom but Ladyfish tripled her weight. Then she curved like a horseshoe.
Something’s wrong, I said, looking at Cowboy Jr. like I do when he wears t-shirts with cut-off sleeves.
It’s not wrong, you caught a fish!! he said with the same excitement typically reserved for kitchen fires and traffic accidents.
Whhaaaa, I screamed. Call 911...
So I reeled and reeled, ignoring the buzz of the line as the fish swam faster than I turned the crank. Ladyfish yelped along with me, her line tugging in both my direction and that of the fish. Imagine the stretch marks...
But Ladyfish didn’t care. She’s tough. She’s strong. And she’s pink.
Finally I could see the bullhead, fighting for his life and summoning to the power of the Ladyfish before him.
I reeled the line as much as I could, then turned my body so as to bring the fish to the boat, but not my face to the fish.
Is that a catch or a kitten? I asked, awed by the whiskers before me.
You take it off for her, Cowboy Sr. said, eyeing the depth to which the hook protruded the fish’s stomach. He swaller’ed her.
Using a pincher that looked more like a revolver than the hook-removing apparatus of its birth, Cowboy reached into fishie’s bowels and set Ladyfish free.
We we off to fish again.
And since it was so late in the day, I guess the fishies had eaten their lunch. But one wanted dessert.
Reel, reel, reel, I worked, knowing I could handle it this time. I’d caught two sea demons by now. Naturally, I was an expert. Nothing could stop me. I had talent. I had grace. I had Ladyfish.
But as soon as I lifted the bull in the boat, Ladyfish died.
She'd suffered a fatal fracture snapping in two like I wanted to snap that mud cat in two. But I didn’t. Because it was slimy.
The good news is, doctors said, she felt no pain.
But it didn’t matter.
I mourned the death of Ladyfish the way my dad cried when Reggie Bush pushed Matt Leinart for USC’s win against Notre Dame: with pounded fists, ripped t-shirts and a lifetime supply of malt whiskey.
I was just about to recite Ladyfish’s eulogy when I heard, FIXED ‘ER!
Fused together with country cleverness and a little fish grease, Ladyfish was shorter, but she was very much alive. Cowboy Sr. had evoked the power of the Phoenix and breathed new life into my fallen fishing pole.
My hero! I swarmed, hugging his neck, kissing his cheeks and wondering if its inappropriate to dump the son and date the father.
But my thoughts quickly shifted to the task at hand. I had fish to catch. And the babies in the boat next door hooked fish so well, we called them professional hookers.