The folks in charge of the Witness Protection Program are getting nervous about reading these stories about my fishing partner, George, and seeing pictures of him (even though his face is hidden). I guess I’ll have to lay off for a while or may be in the program, too.
I thought I was being very…well, protective and careful. They, on the other hand, aren’t happy. So they’ve made him buy some new boots and a new jacket and let his hair and beard grow out where he’s looking like a second on the Duck Dynasty show.
Speaking of boots, he needed a new pair anyway, even though he took excellent care of his old ones for the 25 years he’s worn them.
George’s boots. Believe it or not, these tie into a good fishing story for this month.
I’ve been on several adventures with George when he had to take his boots off. But none were more funny than one late January afternoon when we broke a thin sheet of ice in the edge of some backwater in one of our secret fishing spots and went bass fishing.
We backed the boat down the ramp and unsuccessfully tried to crank the motor. It turned over at about the same speed as I said yes to this crazy ice-fishing excursion.
No problem. George was unfazed and slid the boat off the trailer and we hopped in.
“We’ll just use the trolling motor,” he said.
Well, there wasn’t anything wrong with the trolling motor, but the battery it was hooked up to was stone cold dead. Some people pay attention to signs and know when to turn back. We don’t.
So we paddled, pushed and pulled it back up to the trailer and tried to winch it up. It was too much to bear, so George slipped his boots off, jumped out in about a foot of water, got it on the runners and winched it up. I sat in the back of the boat to help make sure it didn’t float off the runners. I’m always willing to take on the tough job.
That would have been the end of the day for most folks, but George keeps a spare pair of socks that almost stand up on their own because I’m not sure they’ve ever been washed. He ran the heater in the truck for a few minutes until the blue color disappeared from his toes. We decided to just walk the bank and search for lunkers that might be up in the shallows taking advantage of the solar heat being provided by a high, bright afternoon sun.
Boom. We weren’t there but a few minutes when George caught one. Then another. Then another. I scrambled around and found a black and blue creature bait like he was using and soon I was back in the game. By the end of a couple of hours, we were tied.
We decided that it would be fair to just quit and call it a draw and we headed back to the truck. All of a sudden, George came to attention like a $2,000 bird dog, lowered his $400 LL Bean see-under-the-water polarized sunglasses down on his nose and prepared to make a cast.
“There’s a seven or eight pound bass right up there in those stickups,” he said. “He reached back, tried to make a short cast at the spot and zzzpppptttthhhh! His lure hit a little bush behind him and he had a world championship bird’s nest. Backlash City.
Moved too slow
I should have moved quicker, but I couldn’t stop laughing. Besides, I didn’t really believe there was a big old bass out there and with my $5 clip-on Wally World shades, I can’t see under the water.
He quietly waded out into the shallows. It wasn’t easy because the mud was just about as deep as the water. He finally worked his way right up to where the fish was sitting and dropped his bait in right in front of the monster bass.
What happened next, well, you can’t make this up.
The big fish nailed the bait. Inhaled the bait. George set the hook, cut his finger, almost fell down, then after a brief but spirited fight, lip-locked the big bass and held it proudly into the air.
“Looks like I win,” he said with a smirk, even though he was standing there up to his knees in mud and freezing water and pretty well soaked from the big bass’s last couple of dances on the surface.
“You may have beaten me fishing today, but by the time you finish paying the doctor bills, I will be glad it is you and not me,” I retorted.
What could I say? There’s an unwritten code among serious fishing partners that you never, ever say “good job” or “that was awesome.” If you can’t blow it off, then just don’t say anything.
He let him go
And in very unlike-George fashion, he let the big old bass go. Probably because he knew I wouldn’t be able to keep a story like this to myself and he did see me take a couple of pictures. They weren’t too good because my camera was cold, too.
George just put his boots back on, wet socks and all. When the heat hit them, I had to roll down the window even though it was freezing.
George loved those old boots. He even slept with his boots on one weekend at the deer camp. He said it bothered him for the field mice that sought shelter in the rickety old camp to nibble on his toes. So he left them on. Perhaps if they didn’t smell like old cheese, the mice wouldn’t have come in to start with.
But that’s when we made a discovery. When George slept in his old boots, he didn’t snore. And we aren’t talking wimpy little snore. He full fledged makes you feel like you are sleeping next to the airport. Windows shake. Covers ruffle. Nearby car alarms go off.
I hope the new boots work just as well. And I’ve promised not to photograph them.