I brought three fishing rods with me on this trip. I seriously thought about bringing none.
But my internal voice talked me into going on-line to purchase a North Carolina saltwater fishing license. Now, I had to take the gear with me.
My father-in-law introduced me to saltwater fishing. I learned a lot from him. Luckily, he was always patient with me. A high percentage of the fishing gear in our basement came from him and the Commander Supreme’s brother.
For this trip, I decided to take two lightweight rods and my fly fishing rod.
My fly fishing mentor, the Commander’s brother-in-law, Art, has been patient with me too. Art has tried to convert me to fly fishing. I am sure this is a decision he regrets. But, on the bright side, my ineptness with the fly rod has brought Art some good laughs.
I think on Monday morning I rigged up one of the rods with a lure. I had not been to Tight Lines the local fishing store where I usually buy some bait. Anyway, the light rod worked well. Casting out past the breakers wasn’t a problem, but I had no nibbles.
A fellow fisherman down to my right was fishing with bait. Eventually, I noted that he caught a fish. At some point, I walked over to ask what he was using for bait. He responded with a sharing kindness—shrimp and mullet.
I made a drive to Tight Lines to buy some shrimp. That boating dock on the sound side looked like a good place to fish. I now had all three rods rigged up—one with a lure, one to use with the shrimp bait, and the fly rod with a fly that I thought would tempt fish to bite.
For two days I fished early in the morning and later in the afternoon.
The only thing I caught was over in the sound.
I had heard a big splash behind me toward the shore. I turned to see the ripples of what was left of the splash. So, I made a short cast with a lure toward the shoreline of the salt marsh.
As I was reeling back across the water, the lure snagged up on something below the surface. I tugged, but there was no movement. I adjusted the position of the rod and gave a gentle pull, and the line lurched free.
But, I could feel weight on the end of the line. I kept reeling in the line, and soon I saw my prized catch—a small clump of oysters.
Those oysters were encased in a blackness from years of living in that inky muck that was as dark as spent lawn mower oil. Gently, I unhooked the bi-valves from the lure, and let them gracefully fall back into their home.
These two days of fishing only served to reaffirm for me that fishing is a conspiracy.
From my casting point on the dock, I saw beautiful fish jumping. Sometimes, a singular fish would jump in multiple succession like an acrobat or a gracefully leaping ballerina. I would get all worked up, and cast perfectly into that area just knowing that a fish was going to take my bait.
But, that never happened. Those fish are what I call stunt fish. They are part of the conspiracy.
Stunt fish are professional jumpers and leapers. I’m convinced an audit of the bookkeeping practices of all the bait and tackle stores in this part of the North Carolina coast would find a special ledger entry—stunt fish school. These fish are trained to tease fishermen.
For store owners, these stunt fish generate more revenue. How so you might ask?
Well, to begin with fishermen like myself are not wired properly. Fishermen are driven to catch fish at all cost.
So with the teasing stunt fish in mind, a fisherman will make countless trips back to the bait and tackle shops. There the fisherman will describe to the expert clerk all of the jumping fish he has seen.
And, the clerk will be smiling inside saying to himself another sucker, thank you stunt fish. The fisherman will leave the store with mass quantities of bait, assorted lures, and the assurance from the expert that fish will be caught.
I am convinced that if Congress had the courage to launch an investigation, they would find secret training facilities for the stunt fish, a trail of cash bidding for the best jumping fish, and kick backs from lure manufacturers to retail shop owners.
This could be a conspiracy as wide sweeping as the cahoots uncovered between milk and bread suppliers when snowstorms are forecast for Southern states.
Even though nibbling fish or crabs always took my bait, and I lost two flies casting with my fly rod, I’ll stop my whining.
Because here is the trade off for not catching any fish.
When casting into the ocean’s surf, I marveled at the clarity of the water around my feet that allowed me to see minnows in tidal pools and shells tumbling in the undertow. I can see people up and down the beach who at that very moment in their lives seem to be content, and far, far away from any troubles.
Over on the sound side, I can see the life cycles of the tide.
I watch a singular great white heron stalking for a snack against the healthy green background of the marsh grass.
I observe the happy team work of a father and his daughter as they pursue the elusive blue crabs in the murky water around the pilings of the dock.
And one afternoon, I’m treated to rainbow colors on the eastern horizon as the sun’s rays thrust into the sudden burst of a rain shower.
Yes, I will go to my grave convinced that there is a fishing conspiracy.
And who knows, maybe my fishing skills will improve or luck will find me the next time I have the privilege of fishing here. However, this would cast doubt on the conspiracy theory.
But in truth, I am thankful for the conspiracy theory.
Here’s why: it gives me more than fish memories.