BABES IN BOYLAND
Sunday, September 3, 2000 Black Lake, NY
We arrived yesterday afternoon. From a sticky hot day at home we passed through two massive curtains of rain into this chilly terrain on the wrong side of a cold front. But our log cabin is warm and we brought cans of soup and instant cocoa and lots of wine.
We bought nightcrawlers and stood on the dock in the late afternoon catching perch and sunfish. Its been years since Jims done any fishing and is reacquainting himself with a rod borrowed from my friend Maria. (His collection of rods are from ocean-going days gigantic things suitable for marlin and other Hemingway-class game fish. Maria and I bought short, cheap ultralights just right for screwing around.)
Of course, we talked about getting up at the crack of dawn to meet the fish at their hungriest. But dawn came and went as we snuggled in our cozy bed, then dawdled over a leisurely breakfast of toast and tuna salad and tomatoes and peanut butter. Then we stopped at the bait and tackle shop that is conveniently part of this camp. We bought ponchos in case of rain or unbearable cold, a Sunday paper, and minnows.
So far my experience with live bait has been with nightcrawlers. This was triumph enough for me. I learned to dig one out of the compost-y stuff they come in and to be steely calm when it jumps and squirms as I thread the hook through it. I whisper to it that this is a high purpose for its short life.
I also learned that you can store nightcrawlers in the refrigerator for quite a while. Not so minnows. Even Jim knew that. Minnows have to be treated just right in order to stay alive long enough to serve their lifes purpose. We had to buy a minnow bucket. We were instructed on gradually acclimatizing them to the warm lake water and told to dangle the bucket in the water while we fished. The bass and the pike want to see LIVE minnows, twitching and terrified, before they pounce.
I was all worried about the minnows as we set out (by this time about 10 AM). Then I was worried about the boat: getting it started, pushing off from the dock, steering. Jim kept shooting me anxious glances as we headed north. My steering instincts are all land-based and so while I was trying to get the hang of pushing the throttle-handle behind me in the opposite direction from where we wanted to go, I was also twisting the throttle with my death grip so wed speed-slow-speed-slow, all very herky-jerky.
J wanted to go under a small bridge where there was a lot of boat traffic. ("That must be where the fish are.") I managed to notice, then thread my way through the channel markers okay. All I wanted to do was find a nice quiet place to throw my line in (and to take care of my minnows), but Jim appears to be one of those restless fishermen: if youre not getting nibbles after the first few casts, better move on.
Simultaneously but independently, both our lines got hopelessly tangled around our reel mechanisms, so that took quite a bit of attention. At another place, we lost both our tackle assemblies to the rocks. We were grateful to get back to the cabin for lunch and drinks.
Our afternoon trip was more relaxed no boat traffic to worry about and Id grown used to both the minnow-care and the motor handling. And we brought a six-pack of beer with us. Still, we battled weeds, not fish. Our catch for the day amounted to a small perch, on whom I did heroic surgery to get the hook out of his throat before he got tossed back.
Even later, on the docks, where we caught 6 fish yesterday, we got nothing today. I wound up dangling my worm into a small school of minnows, watching them nibble the worm to bits while avoiding the hook. We had a lot of laughs about our learning experiences, though by dock-time it was hard not to be frustrated.
It never rained (although now, at 8:45 PM, it is). But it was a monochrome day. The sky lowered with banks of gray clouds. The water was white, with rippling shades of gray. By 4 PM the invisible sun seemed low in the west because the light seemed so slanted in across the water, but the water stayed that way, with the light reflecting off it from some invisible low place for hours more. Rippling white. And all the boaters coming and going from the docks were silhouettes.
Tuesday, September 5, 2000 Fish were caught.
Last night we giggled. What would we tell people about our trip? Catch any fish? Sure! Gre-e-e-eat fishing up there at Black Lake. Dot, dot, dot.
So, what kind of fish? Its a beautiful lake! People were catching bass, walleye, pike. Supposed to be muskie there but we didnt see any of those guys. But, gosh, we had to wait an hour to get into the cleaning shed at the end of the day.
We giggled some more. Yes, the guy who got to the fish-cleaning shed first had a damn bucketload of fish.
It took Jim an hour to clean all his fish.
This is because his 5 darlings were so miniscule that he had to perform the equivalent of eye surgery to get the skin off and salvage some postage-stamp-sized fillets. But he got his fish dinner, by golly, even though he wound up drowning the teensy fillets with so much lemon and Cajun pepper that he couldnt taste the difference between the sunfish and the perch.
Ah, the stuff fishing stories are made of. Dot, dot, dot.
Black Lake NY Chamber of Commerce site.