The Poke Pressure is ON

I would love to announce in BIG BOLD LETTERS that I’ve been victorious since the last time I posted here, that my prowess with a rod and reel has improved so much that fish seem to happily offer themselves up wherever I may cast a line.

But I can’t because (a) fish are not that malleable and (b) I haven’t been fishing lately.

To be completely candid, I haven’t made fishing a priority despite making a big deal about my goal for this spring – to at least be able to say that it is indeed within the realm of possibility for me to catch a fish every now and again.

That’s not to say I don’t THINK about going fishing.

I do.

Just last week, I thought a lot about catching fish. My wife was out of town, meeting up with some old college friends. They spent a few days revisiting the good times on their old campus (in Ohio of all places, but that’s another story). Her absence presented a perfect opportunity to shirk household chores, stand uselessly by the water and get tangled up in my line.

But I didn’t take the opportunity.

Instead, the new rod and reel I bought early last month as a birthday present to myself remains a virgin. And at this rate, it’s likely to stay that way. Currently, it occupies a lonely space in a dark corner of my garage. At least it’s untroubled by the thought of being mishandled by an incompetent.

I could retrieve my pole and go fishing today. It’s my usual day off from work and the sun just came out following this morning’s soaking rain in which I made the mistake of wearing inadequate footwear – my Crocs.

My wife is not pleased that I still insist on wearing Crocs, and to be honest, I wasn’t pleased to be wearing them this morning. My white ankle socks got soaked.

You might ask, “Your feet are already wet, so why not fish?”

I agree that a little more water isn’t going to hurt them, except that I’ve already changed into dry socks. Besides, today is the final day of Pokemon Go’s “Adventure Week”.

The past several days have been a boon to my gameplay. Thanks to more easily acquired candy for rock-type Pokemon, I now have a formidable Golem in my Pokedex. And the Rhydon I evolved earlier this week is one of the strongest in my line-up.

But Steelix still eludes me.

I’ve coveted Steelix ever since the game’s developer, Niantic, changed the smartphone loading screen to show one rearing up from the earth.

To ensure I get one before time runs out on “Adventure Week” this afternoon, I need to get out and play Pokemon Go.

The pressure is on. In a matter of hours, gameplay will return to normal.

But even if I don’t reel in a Steelix today, I know that eventually I will – which is more than I can say about my prospects for catching a fish.


The morning chirp

Woke up this morning to the birds outside my open bedroom window.

They were happily carrying on quite a conversation.

I don’t speak bird, but I gleaned this much from all their avian chirping: their enthusiasm for the day ahead.

It was infectious.

Their joy almost motivated me to throw my pole in the car and set out for the fishing hole I scouted yesterday.

I settled for a cup of coffee on our front stoop.

I’m terrible at catching fish.

Already proved it once this week.

No use ruining an otherwise peaceful morning by getting fired up about the prospect of reeling in something other than a waterlogged stick.


Birthday fishing fail

How is it that the kids on YouTube make hooking fish look so easy?

I watched several of their videos Monday morning as I was getting my gear together for my birthday fishing excursion.

After watching them pull fish after fish out of the water, I was certain I would finally get the angling monkey off my back, that I would be able to tell my friends that I caught a birthday fish or two and show my wife that her husband is not a complete incompetent.

I remain, however, true to form.

The first bonehead thing I did when I arrived at the public lake about 45 minutes from my house explains why I decided to keep a spare pole handy. After picking what looked like a nice spot to set up shop, I tangled the line in the new rod and reel I bought last week as a birthday present to myself.

I grew so frustrated trying to fix it, that I eventually banished it to the trunk of my car and fetched the spare from where I left it the last time I failed at fishing – on the ledge in my car’s back window.

I then promptly moved on to the next setback – losing one of my new jigs.

I bid it goodbye not long after I actually started fishing. On one of my first casts, the jig I bought just that morning snapped off the end of my line, went sailing over the water in a high arc, and landed in the lake with a plop.

The sound of it hitting the water startled me. And as I watched each succeeding ripple form on the lake’s surface as the jig sank to the bottom, I figured out what went so terribly wrong. I forgot to release my line by opening the bail on my spinning reel.

Lesson learned?

Not immediately. I lost another new jig in similar fashion.

The next couple of hours I spent lakeside proved disappointingly uneventful. While I eventually got my act together enough to at least throw a line into the water without losing my lure, the fish weren’t buying me as a serious angler. It was as if they had taken one look at me, chuckled to themselves, and then decided it would be too embarrassing to end up my hook.

In the end, only a few tiny salamanders in the shallows at my feet showed any interest in what I was offering. One even started to crawl up my line when I left it dangling in front of them, but then thought better of it and went on its way.

The hard truth is, I would have been better off booting up Pokémon Go on my phone. At least then, I could have looked forward to the satisfaction of catching something, even if Pokémon are just cartoon characters in a video game.

But then, catching a Magikarp on my phone isn’t quite the same as the reality of pulling a big, fat, largemouth bass out of the water.

For that, I need a rod and reel.

If only I could use a Poke ball.

The Masters

Sergio Garcia is no longer one of the best players to have never won a major tournament.

Golf has a new Masters champion.

And I’m going fishing tomorrow.

At this point, you might be asking yourself why I’m planning to dunk a few worms on a Monday – the beginning of the work week.

My answer?

Tomorrow is my birthday. I’ve taken the day off and I want to spend it breaking in the new rod I bought last week as a present to myself.

I’m not sure why I bothered to fetch a new pole home from the sporting goods store. I don’t deserve it. I’m a terrible fisherman.

The thing is, though, I’m an even worse golfer. You’ll never see me in a major tournament playoff like the one Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose engaged in to decide the 2017 Masters at Augusta National.

But if Garcia can stick with golf and finally win a major tournament after more than 70 tries, the least I can do is try to actually catch a birthday fish or two.

Not that I’m obsessed with a particular fish or anything

I suppose I could just lie and tell you that the fishing was great last weekend, that I tricked so many fish into buying what I was selling that I was the envy of everyone on the riverbank.

But lies are what fisherman tell. And apparently, I’m not a fisherman. Or, at least, not a very good one.

In fact, I probably should not have taken the weekend off from my radio gig in Washington, D.C., just to go on a fruitless fishing trip.

I know what you’re thinking, that a “bad day fishing is better than a good day at work.” But if I had showed up for my shift, at least I would have been more productive.

Instead, I returned to work this week with no “fish tale” to tell my co-workers, no yarn to make their eyes pop in disbelief. And, more importantly, no story that would justify my new fishing pole to them.

A few months ago, they chuckled sceptically when my new pole arrived at my cubicle. I chose it above all the other gifts my employer offered to those of us marking milestone anniversaries.

I wanted to prove my co-workers wrong and hoped my weekend trout fishing trip to the Blackwater River near my brother’s place in Canaan Valley would do the trick.

No such luck.

All I came away with was a cautionary tale of obsession. Nothing on the scale of the fictional Captain Ahab’s single-minded pursuit of the white whale, but obsession, nonetheless.

After arriving along the Blackwater last Friday evening, a couple of cronies and I fished for a few hours.  We didn’t get any bites, but I wasn’t worried. We assured ourselves we’d fill our coolers the next day and have fresh trout for dinner.

It didn’t work out that way. Aside from one of my friends catching a fish too small to keep, we barely got any nibbles.

My only consolation? No one else fishing near us seemed to have much success, either.

The next day I woke before anyone else and set out for the river, determined to turn our fortunes around and at least catch ONE fish with my new pole before leaving for home later that morning.

That’s when I came across my own white whale, the fish that mocked me for the next of couple of hours.

I first saw it treading water near the riverbank where I was casting my line. It was a good-sized trout and seemed to be offering itself up to be hooked.

I say seemed because getting hooked was the last thing it wanted to do. It really just wanted to toy with me.

I did everything to land that fish, but it wouldn’t take the bait. I think it actually shrugged its fishy little fins at everything I threw at it.

I even tried talking it onto my hook, promising to release it if only it would let me take a selfie of the two of us together as if we were old friends. I wanted photographic evidence to help make the case to my co-workers that choosing a fishing pole was better than settling for a pair of cufflinks I’ll never wear.

But that fish just went on mocking me. Then it mocked my friends when they finally showed up to try their luck catching it.

When we finally ran out patience and began packing up to leave, I swear that fish thumbed its nose at us.

Since it never took my hook, I’m not sure if that fish qualifies as “the one that got away.” But if Captain Ahab can travel to the ends of the earth in pursuit of his nemesis, the least I can do is go after that fish, again.

After all, I’ve still got a selfie to take.

And, I don’t care what I have to do to get it.

Gone Fishing

Before you jump to conclusions – no, I’m not at work this weekend because I overslept after staying up too late obsessively binge-watching our teenage daughter’s fangirl show “Supernatural.”

Even if TV kept me from showing up for my usual weekend radio newscasting gig in Washington, D.C., I would have to blame a different show. Our daughter has forbidden me from “Supernatural” for the time being because (a) she doesn’t want me to catch up with where she is in the series and (b) she says my enthusiasm has “sort of ruined” the show for her.

I feel bad about that.

But not THAT bad.

After all, it’s my duty as a dad to ruin things for my kids.

So why do I have the weekend off?

Well, if I can’t fangirl, I might as well pursue a more age-appropriate activity.

I’m off to West Virginia’s interior, meeting up with a few friends at my brother’s place in Canaan Valley.

We’re going fishing.

Trout fishing, to be specific.

The idea of fishing appeals to me. Casting a line into a mountain stream and waiting for the rush of a fish that takes the bait seems like the perfect way to spend a weekend away from the office cubicle.

And for this trip, I’m looking forward to breaking in the new pole I got for free. I chose it from a list my employer offered as a gift when I reached ten years on the job.

My co-workers chuckled when it arrived, finding it amusing that I’d choose a fishing pole as an anniversary gift rather than a watch or a pair of cufflinks that I’ll never wear.

At the time, however, I ignored them. I figured a fishing pole would more useful.

I might be wrong about that, though. In my experience, the idea of fishing and the reality of it don’t square.

The truth is, I’m a terrible fisherman. As much as I hate to admit this, I can probably count the number of fish I’ve actually caught on one hand.

In fact, I probably spend more time putting a fouled spool of line back into working order than actually casting. And if by some miracle I’m able to get a line into the water, it seems more likely to get snagged on a rock than to hook a fish, leaving me with no recourse but to lose even more precious fishing time trying to work my line free without snapping it.

It’s a wonder I haven’t somehow hooked the back of my head … yet.

There’s still time for that, though.

They say “a bad day fishing is better than a good day working.”

With my track record, it seems I’m putting that old adage to the test this weekend.

But no matter how our trip turns out, at least I’ll have a good fish story to tell when I get back to the office.