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When anglers approach, something fishy this way comes

Columnist Dan Conradt says I tried to worm out of it, but a coworker insisted I go fishing with him on the weekend.

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Larry was standing in the break room, stirring sugar into his coffee with one hand and leafing through an issue of "In-Fisherman" with the other.

“You got any plans for tomorrow?” he asked.

“Well, um … I, uh …”

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I hadn’t yet had enough coffee to kick-start my brain, and my attempt to fabricate plans that would quash whatever he had in mind yielded … nothing.

“You wanna go fishing?”

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“I’m not really into fishing,” I said, trying to sound apologetic. Fishing was Larry’s passion but, in all honesty, if I was given a choice between fishing and a colonoscopy, I’d have to flip a coin.

“Have you ever done any fishing?” he asked.

“Oh, yeah, lots of times. When I was a kid my family had a cabin, and we went fishing every weekend. Crappies, sunfish, stuff like that.”

I didn’t really enjoy fishing then, either.

“So when was the last time you went fishing?”

I did the math. Had it really been that long? “I guess I was about 12.”

“So you haven’t been fishing for 30 years?” His eyes twinkled, and I knew he was razzing me.

“Well it hasn’t been quite that long, but it’s been a while.”

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“Have you got something against fish?” he asked, and the twinkle was back.

Except for touching them, smelling them, cleaning them and eating them, I liked fish just fine.

“Not really. It’s just that …”

“So you wanna go fishing tomorrow?”

Not really. But I admire anyone who finds their passion, and I was curious.

“Sure,” I said. “Let’s go fishing.”

“Great! There’s a nice little lake I like to go to about an hour from here. Be at my house at 5:30. We’ll stop for breakfast. Oh, and one rule.”

“Yuck!” I thought. “He’s going to make me bait my own hook …”

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Turns out that wasn’t the rule: “No talking about work.”

Larry was waiting in his driveway when I got to his house the next day. It was one of those mornings that make you glad you got up early, even if you already do it all week. I was still skeptical about the fishing part, but Larry put most of my doubts to rest when he produced an industrial-sized thermos of strong, hot coffee.

We stopped for the best kind of weekend breakfast … the kind that involves a lot of syrup … and by 7:30 a.m., we were on the lake.

At 7:42, Larry pulled in the day’s first fish.

“Hey! Is that a walleye?” I asked; I figured that if you’re going fishing, you might as well talk like a fisherman.

“Uh, no ... it’s a bass.”

I tried not to talk like a fisherman after that.

We sat in companionable silence as gentle waves slapped at the side of the boat. It was almost hypnotic. Larry seemed to read my thoughts: “The worst day fishing is better than the best day at work.”

In four hours, that was the only time we mentioned “work.”

"How long have you been into fishing?” I asked.

“Forever,” he said wistfully.

There was more silence, then: “One time I added up everything I spent on fishing … the boat and all the gear,” he said. “I figured the fish I caught cost me about $11,000 a pound.”

I was pretty sure he could get fish cheaper at Hy-Vee. My face must have shown it, and his distinctive laugh echoed across the lake.

“Just kidding,” he said.

Mr. Gullible just bought his fish story hook, line and sinker.

I lost track of how many fish Larry caught; I caught one. He told me it was a bass, and I took his word for it.

“Thanks for inviting me,” I said on the way home. “I enjoyed it.” And I meant it. Fishing would never be my passion, but I now understood why it was his.

“You like fish?” Larry asked.

“Yeah,” I said. Most of my fish-eating experience involved a box with the Gorton’s Fisherman on the cover, and my answer was more polite than truthful.

“You got any plans for tomorrow night?” Larry asked, backing the boat trailer expertly up the driveway.

“Well, I … um …”

“Fish fry. Six o’clock,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “Come hungry.”

The fish were fantastic.

The company was even better.

Dan Conradt, a lifelong Mower County resident, lives in Austin with his wife, Carla Johnson.

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