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  • April 25th, 2012

Slapstick Comedy Is Not Dead

 By Joel M. Vance

             It was the Mona Lisa with a mustache painted on her.  It was Michelangelo’s David wearing a bikini.  It was “La Boheme” performed by Homer and Jethro.

            Enchantment and low comedy.  A man catching a large bass with his ankle.  You should have been there.  I was. The long pool was shrouded with tall trees.  A rank of rocky ledges guarded the left-hand bank and a wooded bench ran along the right side.

            Four casts into the pool a one-pound largemouth intercepted my spinner and threw it back at me as it cleared the water.  Then I caught a six-inch bass which also slipped the hook.

            Obviously time for hook sharpening.  Or for lunch.  I opted for lunch.

            The NFL season was opening and most of America, at least the male half, was home watching one bunch of glandularly-disturbed human beings pound knots on another bunch, similarly over muscled. 

            Me?  I was sitting on a log listening to jays gripe with my mind as empty as a desert at noon.  I finished the last of my chips and soda, stuffed the trash in the fanny pack, and suited up again. 

            Four casts into a deep pool, the lure stopped with that heavy feeling that usually signals you’ve hooked a log.  I’d already caught a half-dozen branches and a fist-sized rock, so it was about time for a full grown log.

            I started reeling my way toward the log when I noticed the log was moving.  It then moved rather rapidly away from me, down the pool, and the reel drag sang like the bankside cicadas. 

            I gulped because I go years between catching large fish.  And I remembered the dull hooks that I hadn’t sharpened because my hone was where it always is–at home on a shelf instead of in my wader pocket where it belongs. 

            The fish bulled around in the deep water, like a big channel catfish and I figured that’s what it was.  An eminently edible catfish.  No catch and release on catfish.  They were born to be eaten.  They are the chickens of the stream. 

            Then the fish rolled at the surface and I saw the dark lateral line of a largemouth bass.  A LARGE largemouth bass.  That lateral line seemed to go on forever, like the center line on a Kansas highway. 

            I put more pressure on, praying that the line wouldn’t break.  It charged me, just like a wounded grizzly.  It covered a dozen feet between us and went right between my legs, just as I frantically lifted one leg to avoid it. 

            Buster Keaton never did slapstick any better.  My wading boot caught the line and the fish swam a loop around it like a rodeo cowboy throwing a pigging string loop on a calf.  The weight of the fish threw me off balance and I went over backward, a torrent of water spilling into my chest waders. 

            There I was, sitting in two feet of water with a five-pound bass attached to my leg by about 18 inches of monofilament.  I scooted backward on my rear end, dragging the bass with me.  Thanks to the miracle of modern fishing line which has the tensile strength of steel and the diameter of spider web, I didn’t lose that bass.  I dragged it into a couple of inches of water, managed to lip it.  The spinner fell out of its mouth.

            It was that close to being lost.

            My first thought was there’s no one here to see it.  The big fish glared at me.  He was heavy, had to go five pounds (it since has grown to just under nine pounds).  I briefly entertained the uncharitable thought that I would keep the fish just so I could brag it up in front of witnesses.

            But then it would be merely a big dead bass, never to be caught again (and I couldn’t make it grow as time passed).  I sighed and eased the fish into the water and let go of its lip.  It vanished in the murky water.  “I know where you live!” I shouted after it.

            My fishing fever had cooled.  There is a time to quit and when you’ve landed a nine pound bass, even if it was with your left leg, is the time (okay, five pounds).  Dramatic correctness demands it.

            But I thought I’d make another cast or two and, once again, there was a heavy stop and the weight of something big and nearly immovable.  It would slip one way, then the other, tugging and throbbing against the line.  Felt even bigger than the nine…er, five pound bass.  I led it to shallow water.

            A two-pound flat rock slid into the shallows and came to rest on the bottom.  I backed the hook out of a hole in the rock and reeled the lure to the rod tip.   I considered keeping the rock because it was the biggest one I’d ever landed, but decided enough was enough.

            Two bass, one truly impressive rock, the kind any rock angler would be proud to have mounted on the rec room wall.  A memorable day…except I’ve managed to forget the rock part and inflate the size of the bass when I tell the story, which is every time I can back someone into a corner. 

            Let me tell you about this nine pound bass I caught….


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