People Profiles and Passings

WHOOSH | Don Barone Goes Fishing

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WHOOSH | Don Barone Goes Fishing

“That water is clear…”

 

Dateline:  Can’t tell ya

It has come down to this,

I have way-pointed… a plant.

There is a lily pad out there with my name on it.

Now before we get too far into this tale I must make you aware of some of the parameters of this here story since it is a pure fishing story, and I’m telling it from the POV of an angler, me, I must, rightfully, give you full disclosure on the inner workings of angler storytelling:

  • Some, but not quite all of this story, are lies.
  • What ain’t lies may in fact be some stretching of the truth.
  • What ain’t stretching of the truth may in fact be exaggerations.
  • And in fact in re-telling this story over the years both me and the bass will be gaining weight.
  • And when I up and pass away my children will tell my grandchildren of their Granddaddy’s damn-near Connecticut State Record Bass.

Just so you know upfront-like.

I also won’t be givin’ you any details I don’t want to give you, that’s fair in angling storytelling, but I will, being a trained journalist, give you those four or five “W” things that I was taught every story has to have.  Here goes:

  • WHO:  Me, and my buddy, Dr. Mac.
  • WHAT:  Not saying, see paragraph above
  • WHERE:  None of your business, see ‘graph see.
  • WHEN:  Maybe, yesterday, maybe not.
  • WHY:  Frankly I’m not sure.
  • HOW:  See WHY above.

Okay, now we can do this, my first angler storytellin’ with me actually holding a pole and flinging fish catching stuff every-which-way in the hopes there is one bass left on this planet that hasn’t had fishing catching stuff flung his/her way.

Comes, WHOOSH…

 

“…I watch my lure…”

 

I mainly go for the donuts.

Fishing, that is, fishing with Mac.  Here’s how Mac and I fish together when we just fish in lakes/pond/rivers in Connecticut.

“Don, Mac”

“Hey.”

“I need to go fishing.”

“Uh-huh”

“Need to go BAD.”

“Uh-huh”

“I’m buying.”

“Pick you up tomorrow.”

Now, for those of you who don’t fish, I’m going to tell you a little known fishing secret that may get my newly bought fishing license revoked, but it seems the most important aspect of catching fish is most importantly this:  Doing stuff the same way you always do stuff before you actually sit butt on the water.

I’m working right now on making a lure that smells of…routine.  We’re talking 401K stuffer at ICAST.

Spouses of anglers, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  You have probably thrown out that lucky, stinky, fishing hat, what, five or six times.

With Mac, it’s the routine that I cherish, here’s how we go fishing:

I drive, almost to Canada, to get to his house which on the map only about three zip codes away.  I pull up his long driveway, past his own bass-stocked pound that was once a swamp and may once again become a swamp, and always standing next to his new Red Chevy truck, is an anxious Mac in fishing clothes.

We talk for a few moments about what he has fixed to get the boat, “werking again,” we talked longer this time because of this almost exact text message I got from Mac the day before “The motor pooped the bed.”

My text back:  “R we still going.”

Mac:  “Yep, I hav troll mtr and paddles.”

Me:  “?”

Later:  “I fxd it.”

Me:   “?”

But good friends still show up.

“Where’s the boat,” I said while leaning against a small boat with a small motor that looks like it has been fixed several times, and BTW is hitched to the Red Chevy.

Mac just looks at me and mumbles something I can’t rightly put into quotes.

“Is it fixed and…”

“I’ve rebuilt this from the ground-up, I’ve taken my young boys fishing in it many times…”

Good friends know both his boys are in their 30s right now.

“What was wrong with the motor?”

“Stuff…lets go.”

Writer’s note:  When I use the word, “stuff” in stories it is because I basically don’t know what it is at the time I’m writing about and I’m too lazy to find out, so as I climb into the Red Chevy and we drive off I look over at Mac and see that he has the same smile on his face that I have on mine when I write the word, “stuff.”

Good friends notice this…stuff.

https://s3media.247sports.com/Uploads/wired2fish/2014/05/twin-lakes-connecticut.jpg

Welcome to Twin Lakes in Connecticut…it’s where Mac and I go fishing a lot

 

“…as it’s flying through the air…”

 

We are now tying on the Routine Lure.

My favorite part.

We stop at the same bait/tackle shop that we always stop at, Mac always says this walking in the door, “Going to be buying something I don’t need.”

Half hour later we come out with Mac holding a bag, “See.”  He bought a reel, we open a cupboard thing in his boat and he places the reel box all by itself next to a dozen or so other reels.

Next, we stop at Subway, six-inch subs, me Italian BMT, Mac, something called “A Feast,” which seems to include everything behind the counter but the napkins.

Next, we stop for gas for the boat, “I’ll get it,” I yell as I try to get to the pump before Mac does, “Nope,” he says as he starts filling the red can thing in the back of the boat, so I go inside and buy our, “snacks.”

1 Large bag of fake store brand Ripples Chips.

1 Large bag of Fritos (healthy because they are made from vegetables, corn.)

1 cream soda.  (me)

1 Sweet Tea  (me)

1 Coca cola   (me)

1 Purple sweat tasting drink with human electricity in it.  (him)

1 Bag or Rollos  (me)

1 Bag of cashews  (him)

1 Bag of raspberry candies (me…supposed to eat more fruit)

His gas purchase:  $6.20

My snack purchase:  $21.26

Good friends get to gas pumps quicker than good friends with bad knees.

But the best part of the Routine, is the drive to the lake.

It’s about an hour or so and it’s just two old buds talking, talking about family, wives and kids, the job, him fixing the public, me writing for the public, goals, dreams, loves, the scenery,

and fish tales.

Mac mainly does the fish tales talking since I don’t have any fish tales, yet.

At least that was on the ride to the lake, on the way back, I did some fish tale talkin’.

 

“…I see a ripple…”

 

Fast forward.

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Mac…is Dr. Robert McAllister and Orthopedic Surgeon who has fixed my bones up more than a few times…he’s a good friend in a tough job so it makes me smile to see him like this…

We are on the water and the “stuff” he fixed is still “fixed stuff.”  We are two dudes in a boat with 3 seats.  We have one big cooler, three sacks of food, and about a dozen rods and reels.

Right now it measures up like this:  1 fish equals 6 rods and reels.

I have an actual CT fishing license that says I’m allowed to fling things at the fish, but frankly I think, at this time, it was pretty much a waste of money since I’m not actually fishing but more like Gardening…Mac is on the left side of the boat catching fish, I’m on the right side of the boat catching every kind of plant life in the lake.

Got to tell you though, those weeds are pretty darn good fighters.  You set the hook on a log, man you’re in for something.

We get in a 10 minute discussion, mainly by me, whether crappies belong in lakes or toilets, and then he says to me, “here use this if you want to catch a crappie.”

I don’t reach out for the lure.

I know anglers well enough to know that if I’m out there fishing for a fish spelled, crappie, but pronounced, croppie, there could right well be a surprise waiting for me on the other end of the line.

Good fishing friends do that once in a while.

“Give me the bass rod and reel.”

Let the health care guy handle the…crappie.

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…but not so much like this with his secret only thing on a desert island taking bait, which in truth is not something found in Area 51 like he would like me to believe…

“Okay, but this is my top secret, always catch a bass, best lure ever made.”

I bite a fake Ripples and just look at him.  “Uh huh, Skeet and KVD tell me that all the time.”

“But they don’t have this.”

And out of ONE of his tackle boxes he pulls out…what looks like chewed Doublemint Gum that he just took off the bottom of his foot in a paved parking lot.

It’s white.

And the back end is curled like fettuccini without the sauce.

“Ta-da”

I bite another fake Ripples.

“Did you fix that too?”

“I’m telling you if I was stranded on an island and could only have one lure THIS would be the lure.”

And he holds it up like it is the Stanley Cup.

I bite another fake Ripples.  “What is it?”

“IT IS,” said all proud, “a white Mr. Twister.”

I knew a white Mr. Twister, he was the weird ice cream truck guy who came down our street in the summer.

I’m not sure how soft serve is going to catch a bass.

Good friends try the one lure you would take to a deserted island even if it brought back memories of the weird ice cream truck guy.

So I have on my line the equivalent of a small cone, Mac has the large cone on his line, and we both cast of the same side of the boat at the same time and…

https://s3media.247sports.com/Uploads/wired2fish/2014/05/don-barone-mister-twister.jpg

don-barone-mister-twister.jpg …but this a White Mr. Twister which he assured me had nothing to do with the weird White Mr. Twister ice cream truck driver who use to come down my street in summer when I was a kid.

…bang.

Both soft serve truck lures, get hit.

By fish.

So I start reeling in like a kid running after Mr. Twister on a hot day, “eh Don, you might want to close the bail,” which seemed to explain why my fish was going in the opposite direction of Mac’s fish.

And then, I had my 30-some dollar fish (the price I paid for the license) and as I get it to the boat and lift it in I hear…

“Be careful of it’s teeth.”

Great, I catch the one fresh water shark on the planet.  “What teeth,” I say to Mac as I swing the fish his way.

“It’s a pickerel, bigger than mine, 14 inches…”

“What teeth.”

“Some people eat them.”

And as I look at the fish on the end of my line and his left eye looks right at me and I know he is thinking, “Yeah, some pickerel eat people.”

“Here, you take him off.”

And my good friend did.

 

“…I hear a splash…”

All I’m thinking as I’m about to fling at some fish is this:  “My buddy Dean Rojas would be proud.”

I have on my St. Croix rod, a frog.

Thank goodness, not a real one, but an unslimy, no parts of dead flies on it, non-creaking, plastic frog.

To be exact, a green spotted SCUM FROG, that thankfully was un-scummed.

“Throw it at the lily pads and weeds, it has a weed guard on it so it will be great there.”

The only frog I have ever seen sitting on a lily pad got kissed by a cartoon pretty lady and didn’t last at being a frog for long after that.  But I’m going to go with Mac on this one since he is a doctor, and smart, and also said if I caught anything he would take it off the hook for me.

So my first EVER overhead fling whips through the air with the whipping through the air sound and…bounces off the side of the boat.

“Open the bail.”

So my second EVER overhead fling whips through the air with the whipping through the air sound and…lands in the water a foot from the boat.

“Might want to let go the line a little sooner.”

So my third EVER overhead fling whips through the air with the whipping through the air sound and…lands right on a freaking lily pad about 20 yards from the boat.

Guess Disney was right after all.

“Jerk the rod up and down so it looks like a wounded frog.”

In 61.8 years of life I have never, ever seen a wounded frog, I’ve seen plenty of squished wounded frogs, but they didn’t move much, and as I’m thinking I wished I went out to dinner more with Dean Rojas. I move the rod some and the non-scummed Scum Frog falls off the lily pad and into the water.

I couldn’t tell if it fell like it was hurt or not.

So, as I’m sitting there thinking of texting Dean Rojas about how hurt frogs act I’m just watching the frog move in at least a sprained frog leg manner past this other Lily pad when I see this big bubble thing growing on the water.

It looks like the top of a mushroom cloud coming up from the water and this is exactly what I’m thinking, “Hum.”

And then the water explodes like somehow I managed to light a bomb in this frogs butt and all of a sudden I hear this sound almost like a vacuum like “WHOOSH” and this big green thing starts coming out of the water and….

“Set the hook…SET THE HOOK.”

“Huh.”

Then, a calming peace came over me, and I thought back to my almost eight years of covering the Elites and I thought about all those hook sets, so I tightened my ample belly, twisted to the side a bit, imposed a two-handed death grip on the rod, and then using all of my skinny “guns” and ample belly I swung that rod backwards with every ounce of old age and bad health that I had.

And thought, “Hum”

“Hum…that massive must be record setting bass seems pretty….”

“…light…” as the green spotted non-scummed Scum Frog comes whizzing over my head and lands in the water about 20 feet on the other side of the boat.

With no Biggin’ attached.

I just got WHOOSH’ed, with nothing to show for it.

“Boy, that looked pretty big.”

Good friends say stuff like that.

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We made it back to shore, the “Stuff” Mac fixed on the boat held together and we beat the storm back to launch…but the motor took a beating and one of the service guys was checking on Mac’s work.

 

“…Lord have mercy…”

 

I get it now.

I’m not going to get into all the details of top water baits, or baits of any kind, but once you have been WHOOSH’ed, you can’t get enough WHOOSH.

For me, it wasn’t the thrill of the catch, there wasn’t a catch, Mac and I stayed in the same spot throwing to the same spot for awhile, and I would get some hits, some tugs, but nothing like the fury unleashed like Mother Nature on that first cast.

And it is that part that I am beholding to.

While I wouldn’t want to be a frog sitting on a lily pad, to watch is to be awestruck.  To observe the primal forces around you is to understand that we are just small cogs on this rock in space.

It is a WHOOSH heard by dinosaurs.

It is a WHOOSH heard by the first of us to walk upright.

It is a WHOOSH heard by Jesus, by Socrates, by Columbus, by your Granddaddy and probably some day by your Grandbaby.

It’s a WHOOSH that connects us to our past, and our future, and one that must be protected.

I am thankful I heard the WHOOSH, will understand you now when you tell me of your WHOOSH.

But mostly I’m thankful for a good friend who takes me out fishing, which I think is really what the base of fishing is all about, routines with good friends in almost good boats.

And frogs.

And Lily Pads.

But I won’t tell you where they are.

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Me and Mac, soon to be fishing again…but we still won’t tell you exactly where…

 

“…it’s a five pound bass.”

Five Pound Bass

Robert Earl Keen

…but mine was bigger 馃槈

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