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Chuck Landon: Reeling in my first fish

Jun. 25, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

There always seemed to be something a little, well, fishy about the sport of fishing.

All the Moby Dick-sized tales of the one that got away, all the exaggerations about hooking a trophy fish but releasing it and all the claims of being the best angler this side of Quint in "Jaws."

It seemed to me that fishing was mostly talk, which is ironic considering people are supposed to be quiet while fishing.

Since I already like to talk, I never bothered with fishing.

Until, that is, a recent conversation at a local watering hole turned to fishing and I committed the grievous error of admitting I never had caught a fish in my entire sporting life.

My buddies reacted like my testosterone level immediately dropped 50 percent. They stopped just short of revoking my male membership card.

That leads to my vacation last week at Beech Fork State Park. Although I still don't understand why anyone would want to catch something called "crappie," I was determined to catch my first fish.

How hard could it be?

I found out in a hurry.

As it turns out, it's actually necessary to cast a line equipped with a bobber, sinker, hook and bait into the water before a fish can be caught.

Who knew that would be so difficult?

My first five casts didn't hit water. I hit the bank. I hit the weeds. I lost my bait in the cattails. I wrapped my line around the rod. I did everything except what I was trying to do.

It felt like I could fall out of a boat and not hit water.

Sensing my growing frustration, my friend Randy, aka "The Fish Whisperer," offered the perfect casting advice. He explained casting was like throwing a baseball. The release point was the same.

Armed with a sports analogy, suddenly casting was no problem.

Fishies beware.

Yeah, right.

The only thing I caught that afternoon was a new-found appreciation for just how challenging fishing actually is. But thanks to the unflagging support and encouragement of the lovely Deborah, not to mention her willingness to bait my hook repeatedly, I didn't give up.

So, an evening or two later I resumed my quest after some sage advice from Denny, aka "The Fishmeister," who is preparing his own fishing instructional video entitled, "The Happy Hooker."

That's when I learned that just because a fish "hit" my bait, I didn't have it hooked. I got more hits than Pete Rose in a doubleheader, but all I had to show for it was an empty hook. It seems I wasn't jerking the rod forcefully enough and those gluttonous fish were stealing me blind.

When it got so dark I couldn't see my bobber, I was ready to concede defeat again. But the lovely Deborah persevered, suggesting we bait our hooks one more time.

It was the right call.

After she quickly caught a small catfish, I finally hooked a fish. It put up a titanic struggle, but I reeled it in. Then, of course, the momentous event was captured with a photograph and I tossed Vince BlueGill back in the lake.

And, now, I'm hooked.

I won't be giving The Herald-Dispatch sports editor Rick McCann curious looks anymore when he takes vacation to go fishing. Not that I have any pretense of becoming a real angler.

Compared to Captain Ahab, I'm Captain Rehab.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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