My Rod And Reel, They Comfort Me

My father-in-law passed away this past week, but I learned an awful lot from him over the last 24 years that I've been married to his oldest daughter. One of the things he taught me to do was to fish. I still don't like to touch a fish with my bare hands, but Carmon Wenger taught me to filet them. I'm running my favorite fishing column from 2004 in his honor, since I can barely see the screen enough to type right now.

As spring gets warmer, and the days grow longer, a grown man's fancy turns to thoughts of fishing.

I realize there are people who argue that fishing is a year-round sport, and will fish during the winter, but these people are weird. If the whole point of fishing is to relax, why do I want to sit through bone-biting cold when everyone knows the fish are at home drinking hot chocolate and watching "Jaws IV: The Revenge." 

Every fisherman dreams of finally hooking the big one, like Fat Cat, the 132-lb. catfish from the Tennessee Aquarium. Several years ago, Kathie Fulgham, public relations manager for the Tennessee Aquarium, told me she was the largest catfish on display in the world.

I thought it was weird that a catfish was working in public relations, but Kathie said no, Fat Cat was the largest catfish, Kathie was a human public relations person.

Around the time the ice melts and the ice fisherman have been pulled from the lake, the sane fishermen's arms begin to twitch and they flick their casting hand in anticipation of another season spent trolling the world's lakes, rivers, and state aquarium catfish tanks. I myself take a 20-hour drive up to the wilds of Canada each summer and spend a week on a remote lake.

So in the spirit of the new fishing season, I would like to offer Erik's Commandments for Fishing, in case you and I ever end up in the same boat.

1. Mocketh not the Man who requires a glove and needle nose pliers for fish removal. It's not that he is a sissy so much as he just doesn't want to get fish slime on — okay, it's because he's a sissy.

2. Teaseth not the Man about being a sissy, because he is mightier than you.

3. Week-long fishing trips are for men only. No women are allowed. Yea though women are wondrous in my sight, they want us to do things, like bathe daily, and not smoke cigars in the cabin. Or on the boat. Or outside. Also, to bathe daily.

4. Verily I say unto thee, the fish was this big. . . actually it was THIS big. And it weighed 12, nay 14, pounds. Why would I lie about such matters?

5. Playeth not the practical jokes, like pulling on my fishing line when I appear to be dozing. I do not sleep, but merely resteth mine eyes.

6. Hide not the Holy Needle Nose Pliers either. It wasn't funny the first eight times.

7. Thou shalt have no other baits before artificial lures. Minnows, worms, and other creatures of the sea and Earth are squishy and icky. Hast thou forgotten that we are a sissy?

8. If thou disobey me, and insist on using creatures of the sea and Earth, thou shalt bait mine hook, lest I become squeamish and drop the bait in the boat.

9. Expecteth not that I will fillet the fish. Oh sure, I'll try it once, but do not make this a habit.

10. Dispose of fish remains far away from camp across the lake. It attracts bears and its day-old odor bringeth tears to mine eyes.

11. Special commandments to wives: Washeth not the Holy Fishing Vest. It is imbued with the smell of victory. And cigars. Hangeth it in the garage for a week instead.

12. Thou must resist the temptation to discard a fillet knife just because "it's old." Scoff not at the Man's need for six fillet knives — they each serve a useful purpose.

13. Yes, the Man understands the irony of owning six fillet knives even though he does not like to fillet fish. The Man hath not questioned your need for a doll collection you no longer play with.

14. And while we dwell on the subject, scoff not at the Man's need for eight fishing rods and reels either. This is how the Man inspires other, lesser fishermen to sing his praises.

15. Verily I say that eating fried fish is healthy and good for the Man. Worry not, for the Man hath eaten of vegetables on Wednesday. Or was it Thursday?

16. And on the eighth day, when the Man returneth home, keep the day holy and silent. Verily, the man is tired from staying up late every night playing poker and smoking cigars.

Photo credit: Carmon R. Wenger

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