Fishermen always like to talk about “the one that got away.” It’s usually an exaggerated and detailed story about the monster they “almost” caught. Well, I’m one of those people.
Let me tell you right up front that I’m passionate about a number of things in my life. Fishing happens to be one of them. I actually know a fair amount about this subject.
Using the right bait was the first lesson I learned from my father about fishing. Most of us used worms. Because we had a compost pile in the corner of our backyard, I was never at a loss for bait.
We also used lizards for bait. As kids, my friend, Loulie Johnston, and I caught lizards in the woods near her family’s summer cabin. We set up a little bait stand at the end of the driveway and sold them for five cents apiece. Sometimes the bait business was brisk. After all, who could resist two cute little girls sitting on crates by the side of the road selling lizards?
I learned a lot about fishing techniques from my Uncle Milton. He and Aunt Rena lived on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. When my family vacationed there, I spent many a lazy summer day fishing on his boat.
Uncle Milton taught me how to chum. He took a bucket of fish heads and miscellaneous bloody parts and threw it overboard. We slowly chugged through it over and over again. Big fish were attracted to the area and went into a feeding frenzy. Chumming wasn’t a favorite of mine because, quite honestly, it smelled terrible.
Stinky yes, but highly successful.
Another lesson I learned from Uncle Milton was to follow the birds to the best fishing spot. Whenever we saw lots of gulls circling and diving, we could be sure that they had found a school of fish; the birds were never wrong.
As with any activity one loves, there are highs and lows. To choose the worst fishing experiences I ever had is tough. I’d have to say it’s a toss up between the time I got eaten alive by mosquitoes and chiggers fishing on a friend’s lake in Midlothian, Va., or going deep sea fishing at Ocean City, Md., with my cousin’s wife, Gina.
Gina and I should never have gotten on that boat. The weather was awful, the sea was rough, hardly any fish were caught, and Gina got seasick. She spent the day throwing up below deck. It was just awful.
On the other hand, the highlight of my fishing career took place in Hawaii. While on vacation there, I opted to go fishing on a professional fishing boat geared to catch really big fish. It was a beautiful day. Little flying fish swam along beside us, and there were rainbows above us.
The captain strapped me into a chair and handed me a huge fishing pole, which fit into a sturdy holder in front of me. I was so excited! As we headed further out into the Pacific Ocean my pole suddenly bent down, and I held onto it for dear life. Out of the water came a huge silver fish with an incredible fin and a long snout. It hung in the air momentarily, glistening in the sun – and then it was gone.
I had snagged a swordfish.
It was the one that got away from me. Even though I didn’t reel him in, I was thrilled to have had that one moment in time. I’ll never forget it.
I don’t have a stuffed swordfish on my wall, but I do have an excellent recipe for swordfish. Whenever I prepare this dish, I just pretend it’s the one I almost caught. This one can’t get away, though.
Joy Smith is a resident of Fort Mill.