Fishing With Old(er) Men

by Lee S. Wilbur

“Bob, remember when we first fished this side of the river. What was it, 20 years ago now? Remember the fish we used to catch? Never come home with an empty cooler.You remember the size of some of those Redfish?”

“Yep, I shore do. Now you stay close to those markers and don’t stray off to the left like you usually do. I don’t want to have to get out and push us off like we had to that morning. I’m sure you remember that....right.”

Phone had rung on Sunday morning sometime with a message on the machine. “How’s your Monday or Tuesday shaping up?” It was my friend “Woody” from the yacht club. Now I like an invitation like that. Gives a guy both leeway and a chance for some leverage at the same time. Have to communicate with the keeper of the schedule first of course and see if there’s anything real important on the agenda like the ubiquitous Doctorial appointment, or a trip to Wal-Mart for pool additives. Gives her a chance to feel she’s been consulted. Generally speaking, one of the aforementioned days she’s busy, so the leeway and the leverage have both come in to play. Now Woody and I had been kind of planning this trip for over a year now. At the monthly cocktail get-togethers, the launch party, the haulout party, the cruise party, we’d always handgrip, catch up a bit, then grip again as we’d say, “Now we’ve got to get this fishing date set.”

I e-mailed him. Then called. “Tuesday.” Then called again to get his house number. I’d only been there twice. Wrote it on the back of one of those envelopes I save when I open the mail. Most developmental houses here in Florida have their own kind of lookalike and I have a syndrome known only to those of a certain age as Street Name Avoidance, or SNA, where the afflicted try to remember landmarks instead of the anointed distinction. Driving over I found my MIA cellphone and called him again when I was a block away. Found his house without any problems.

Bill from Nova Scotia’s pontoon boat was perfect. Had a full standup Sun avoidance cover, no fixed seating. Bob says, “Best deal we ever made buying these lawn chairs at the annual Yard Sale.” Motor was an “elderly” 2-stroke Evinrude that started first clip, juiced by two 6-gallon gas cans that looked to be original. Plenty of room to move around and to stow one’s fish case and lunch cooler. New carpeting felt comfortable and sure underfoot.

We’d no more than settled into the celebrated lawn chairs and headed out the canal when Bill, in his softly tortured Nova Scotia accent says to Woody, “You might want to change those fuel tanks over. I think the one we’re on only has a few drops left. Guess I’ve got to take both of em’ to get em’ filled here pretty soon.”

Short order, beautiful ride down the Myakka, pronounced “my-acka” River, and we were anchored just north of the El-Jobean bridge. Pelicans and gulls were working the water and a full-fledged Dolphin was swimming and surfacing around the pylons of both the old and new bridge. Sun was high and warm overhead. Hardly a cloud graced a clear blue sky. Day to make a propaganda photographer’s heart go pitterpatter.
“Calmer than a plate full of piss,” says Bill.

We anchored for a few minutes. “Now do you suppose older bait does any better for fish than fresh, cause if so we ought to catch our limit today.” As we baited with ex-frozen shrimp. We moved to the south of the bridge. Nothing. “More people fishing around here today than usual.”.... “Yep”.... “When the tide changes we’ll drift. This is the flood ya know. Just when the tide changes and she starts flowin’ back in.”

We move back to the north side of the bridge and start our drift. Hour or so goes by and we vie for who can catch the biggest wad of grass.

“Bingo,” Bob’s line is nailed. Hard-head catfish. “Well it’s a fish,” Bill says as Bob releases it followed by Bob’s catching three more. Even though the cats are trash fish, great reverence and care is used to head them back to the water. Now, we’re all fishing with the same tackle. Have been all morning. Small weights, 3 feet or so of line to the shrimp-baited hooks, all lines within 4-6 feet of each other. Bill catches a few catfish. Joe lands some small redfish. One has two distinguishing black spots on its tail.

“Yep,” he says, “Can be as many as three” after I mention I’d only seen them with one. Woody lands a couple of reds. I refresh my shrimp a couple of times, hoping to discover the proper vintage. Great prior fishing holes are pointed out and experiences shared as we drift through “hidden lake,”. I’ve given up on changing bait. Woody offers me his rod to reel in his latest. I laughingly decline. “This isn’t my first fishing trip.” Although none would have guessed otherwise.

There is absolutely nothing so fine as a great day of fishing and that includes golf I guess, because I don’t play golf.

Aaah, the ubiquitous chicken. What would we do without its thousands of preparatory ways. Dinner parties would immediately become a distant memory. Some of my fondest memories are my southern mother’s Sunday night chicken dinners. Here’s a recipe where the flavor of Gorgonzola and the pliable flesh of chicken do a remarkable dance together.


• R E C I P E •


6 boneless chicken thighs, pounded thin,

1/4 cup flour cut into medallions

3 T. unsalted butter

3 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 qt. Cup brandy or whisky

salt and pepper

6 ozs. Gorgonzola diced

1 T. minced parsley

Dredge the chicken in the flour. I sometimes throw in some “Panko” bread crumbs which soak up more of the sauce and give a nice “crunch” as well. Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium fry pan. Sauté the chicken until browned on both sides, turning once for about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a warm plate and deglaze with the brandy, scraping the goodness in the pan until it evaporates. Return the chicken. Salt and pepper to taste, then fold in the Gorgonzola, cover, lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes or so until the Gorgonzola melts into a gorgeous sauce. Uncover and turn the chicken in the sauce. Serve hot, sprinkled with parsley. Serves 4.

Fair winds and Good roads.


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