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Mike Jones - KEEPING UP

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018
The Best, Ever: Part 2 Mexico in My Backyard
Thursday, November 08, 2018
A River Kinda Ran Through It

Giving it the finger
With interest – and some queasy memories – I read George Kramer’s account of dealing with a hook in the finger during his pre-fishing for the U.S. Open. To some degree, we’ve all been there. Although I’ve spent a lifetime around hooks and experienced any number of partial spearings, only once did I require professional assistance. Perhaps I have been overly cautious all these years or just plain lucky (most likely a fortunate dose of both), I nevertheless fell victim to what could be considered almost inevitable.

It happened somewhere on Missouri’s Mark Twain Lake during some long-ago trip in someone else’s boat for purposes I don’t remember. If I can use any or all of those as excuses for what transpired I will — and have — over the years.

Of the situations that create lapses in angling judgment, when it comes to hook danger, there are two high up on my list. The first is fishing for stripers with Zara Spooks. Not just any stripers, but those schooling little blasters just big enough to test your grip strength. Like baby chimps, they look small and controllable until you realize they’ve got you beat strength-wise five-to-one.

The other situation is fishing three to a boat. I hate it. Put an extra guy in a bass boat and suddenly you’ve got an actual chimp fest. Somehow, it seems to change everything from how you cast to how you think. There is no rhythm to it, no strategy and certainly no way to keep your normal habits in check.

Before my appointment with destiny in Missouri, I had been witness to the mayhem a three-man boat can produce. One of the most memorable came in the midst of a completely unexpected crankbait flurry at, of all places, Lake Elsinore. A rare, rising water-situation had spurred a bite that was as yet undiscovered by the public so, other than my bass boat, there was only one other on the lake and neither of us had moved far from the launch ramp. No one was worried about protecting their spot because the fish seemed to be everywhere. We drifted around within easy casting distance of one another, commenting on our good fortune and most likely complimenting our current standing as bass fishing badasses.

Then came the shriek. Part yelp, part groan, it emerged with that instantly identifiable tone of real agony. For the first few minutes, there was not much to see from my perspective as two of the three fishermen huddled over their fallen comrade. I kept casting, but I did feel a little guilty about it. From their body language, I could see they had reached an impasse in dealing with the problem.

“You guys need some help?” I asked.

“Do you know how do that monofilament, remove-the-hook thing?” one asked plaintively.

Well, I had done it but I hardly considered my skills exemplary. Then once I got alongside and saw how and where the poor fellow had been gaffed, I knew this extraction was way above my pay grade. The crankbait treble was deeply embedded in the tough, muscly skin on the side of his neck. Worse yet was his coloring. As a writer, I knew the term “ashen” and I’m sure I had used it once or twice. This, however, was the first time I had ever actually seen someone turn gray. My advice was to keep their friend warm, put some fluids in him and get to a doctor asap.

Although my personal experience at Mark Twain didn’t exactly parallel the Elsinore incident, there were enough similarities to have sent up a few red flares. At the very least, it should have been filed somewhere under “Things to Avoid.” Yes, there were three people in the boat. And yes, we were slinging hardbaits adorned with multiple trebles. As it turned out, however, the other two guys weren’t the problem.

Without any assistance from them, I managed to snag the rear seat of the Ranger with my Smithwick Rogue. Instead of opting for pliers, I very cavalierly pinched the treble between index finger and thumb, pulling it free in one smooth motion. Unfortunately, when the Rogue came loose, the rod loaded up, propelling the barb of one treble up and into my finger. It wasn’t a slicing wound on the side of my digit or a nasty gash, but more a deep surgical insertion directly through my fingerprint, clear to the bend.

Angry at myself and one hissy shy of a major fit, I turned to my buddy, holding up my Rogue-decorated finger.

“See what you can do,” I winced as the pain began seeping down my arm. I handed him a pair of pliers.

The next thing I remember were blurry faces overhead and what sounded like distant voices calling me from a deep sleep. I had passed out so quickly and so thoroughly, no one had any time to respond. But instead of crumpling to the floor, my body had stiffened in what might have been mistaken for planking fifteen years later.

Within minutes, I was sitting in a doctor’s examination room, only yards from the shoreline, the ceiling festooned with a rather extensive collection of fishing lures.

Exchanging the briefest of pleasantries, he set to the task with workmanlike efficiency. Trying to distract myself from what was sure to come, I tried to make small talk.

“I can’t believe I checked out that quickly.”

Immediately the doctor stopped what he was doing and launched into a monologue that sounded suspiciously well rehearsed. He opined about the wonders of the human body and how intensely packed bundles of nerves are stacked like cordwood in three distinct areas of our anatomy.

“Here”, he said, pointing with both index fingers to his chest, making circles in the air.

“Here”, he said, making a larger circle over his groin.

“And here,” he said, holding up both hands and wiggling his fingers.

“You were trying to pull a sharpened shard of metal from a nerve bundle capable of distinguishing the slightest variations in temperature and texture. What were you thinking?”

Yeah, right there, I knew he wasn’t a fisherman.

* * *

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