It was opening day of fishing season Sunday, which was something I didn’t know when we put our kayaks in the water. Every 7 feet was another group of fishermen all dressed in rubber and camo standing in the middle of the river with their heads down and eyes aimed at the water. As we floated by they would look up and ask us hopefully, “see any fish?” But alas the river was fishless. However, as we passed by perhaps our fourth group of luckless anglers I saw what looked like a trout about a foot long dart by my boat. “A fish!” I shout, thinking this is helpful to the guys we just passed. But instead of gratitude they gave me a look that said, “and what the hell do you suppose we should do, tackle it?”
So we continued our trip upriver where we encountered the largest group yet—a half dozen losers with their lures or bait or whatever you stick on the end of a hook in order to coax a fish into biting it. “See any fish!?” one called out. This time my answer was more optimistic. “Yes! A big one about a quarter-mile back!” “Great!” one called back. “Any closer?” At that point I’m thinking I caught more with my two eyes than those guys caught in two hours of standing with sticks and string with hooks n’ stuff on the end of them dipped in the fast moving current.
At that point we decided the river was too clogged with this crowd of rubber/cammo’d bipeds and turned back downriver. Very shortly we encountered a new group of fishermen. As we stopped to chat with them it became apparent we were not on the same page. I mentioned we had seen several other fishermen upriver. My partner didn’t quite hear me and added, “yeah, they had a bunch of them on a stringer!” Horrified and thinking we had described an outtake from the movie “Deliverance,” the fishermen abruptly and wordlessly returned their attention to their rods, and eyes to the river. Our little episode might not have measured up to one of Hemingway’s famous fishing tales such as “The Big Two-Hearted River,” but after encountering so many wet guys with empty buckets and bass-less stringers, we might have written “The Shallow Heartbreak River.” It was just one of those episodes you catch…and release.