BABES IN BOYLAND
Maria and I live in a world of fisherman. You can’t toss a hook without snagging a man who regularly disappears with his rod and reel and who cultivates his khaki-and-plaid image. At the same time, they are oddly vague when it comes to any real advice. And get them to go with us? Show us their manly art? Fuhgeddaboudit.
But on Tuesday, who shows up but Malone himself, king of elusive.
We were on the Erie Canal in Pittsford Village, where it's all trendy restaurants and darling shops.
We were on the Erie Canal in Pittsford Village, where it's all trendy restaurants and darling shops. At 6 P.M. the day was still sultry and we were anything but organized. Maria had to disassemble her reel and cut away a yard of tangled line at great risk to her newly cemented nails and -- so we wouldn’t appear to be drinking in public -- I had to transfer a bottle of warm Chardonnay to a metal Thermos that had been in the hot trunk all day. We were roughing it.
Even in the heat, the towpath was crowded with dog-walkers, Rollerbladers, and duck-watchers. It was the well-fed ducks that made us believe this would be a good spot for carp: bread for the ducks equals chum for the carp. We piled our gear onto a park bench and began trying to reproduce a fish-finder rig that I’d seen in a book: 3-way swivel, one line to a sinker that lands on the bottom, the other to the hook and bait that floats free.
And along comes Malone.
We told him we’d be there, but we always invite a guy or two and they never show up. Our jaws dropped when we saw his shiny red truck pull into the parking lot. He sauntered over to us, can of beer in hand.
“What the hell are you doing?” He looked around at the milling pedestrians. “This is a terrible place to fish – like being downtown. Give me that.” He took Maria’s pole. I explained about the fish-finder rig. “Nice idea, but you’re doing it all wrong. First of all, the current in the canal is strong, so this little bit of lead is useless.” He rummaged through our tackle, found more lead, then tied two hooks to the line. “What d’ya got for bait?”
I held out the soggy box of once-frozen corn.
“Worms, you need worms.”
“Bill told us carp liked corn.”
Malone scowled and jammed the niblets onto the hooks. “Ain’t gonna catch any fish with this.”
By the time we threw our legs over the edge of the concrete towpath and slipped down to water’s edge, Maria and I were all thumbs. The fisherbabes who’d operated a motor boat and pulled 40 bass from an isolated Canadian lake couldn’t even cast. I forgot to flip my bail and Maria’s swivel got caught in the rod tip. Malone cast for each of us, waited till the sinker settled, tightened the line, then snugged each rod in among the rocks at an angle to the current, tips up.
“Watch. When the tip start vibrating, you’ve got a fish.” He hiked over to his truck and brought back a cooler of ice cold beer while Maria and I got used to the idea of fishing without continuous cast-and-retrieve. Ignoring our plastic cups of warm wine, Malone popped open beers and handed them to us. “This is fishing.”
“Find some worms,” Malone ordered.
The sun had set and the fish hadn’t bit.
“Find some worms,” Malone ordered.
Maria whipped out her cell phone and ran through a list of boyfriend, ex-husband, and neighbors. Soon a dark Dodge Caravan pulled up. A woman handed Maria a carton of worms in exchange for a fistful of cigarettes.
Malone was pleased.
In no time, I was pulling in a 15-inch sucker.
“Get a picture, get a picture,” I screamed.
Maria grabbed the tiny camera from my fishing vest. Malone jumped up to help get the fish in but it popped off the hook back into the canal.
“We didn’t get a picture,” Maria scolded.
“My fault, my fault, I’m sorry,” Malone said, then grinned. “But it’s okay – I’m your witness.”
The foot traffic along the canal didn’t let up. Teenagers squealed, babies cried, a 4-year-old pestered us with questions, and a cranky old man made us clear our gear off the park bench so he could sit where he always sits. Our fishing became less ambitious and our conversation meandered to the topics darkness brings – relationships, the future. At 11, when the 12-pack of beer was gone, the three of us went our separate ways.