Tuesday, October 18, 2005


I bought a fishing license last week.

I know--I don't seem like "fishing guy." I'm not, but I was "fishing kid" growing up. We lived on the Texas Gulf Coast, and some of my favorite memories as a kid are wade fishing or fishing from a pier that was about ten minutes from our house. Indian Point pier, it was called, and fishing at night under the lights with live shrimp and a popping cork caught all kinds of fish. The pier owner was this gruff guy named Rudy Mayorga, who would tell you in outraged terms that he absolutely would not help you--right before he helped you. He was a big man in an era before big men, and that made him even more intimidating.

I stayed all night on the pier many times. It was a very small town (7,003) and a different world back then. I found out later from my Mom that gruff Rudy would watch me all night from the bait stand at the foot of the pier to make sure that I was okay.

Here's where you fished on the pier: just after sunset, the best spot was in water only a couple of feet deep, just at the edge of the pier lights. As the night moved, so did the fish, up the pier toward deeper water. That was one of those secrets that only pier veterans knew.

To a large degree, I'm a loner, and I realized this morning as I wrote this that was a loner even then. I was twelve years old, fishing all night on a pier and never feeling lonely. Maybe some people are just born that way.

As I got older I fished less on the pier and more often by wading. The bay was only five minutes from our house, and wade fishing at sunrise on the glassy bay with the sun rising in front of you was one of the most peaceful moments of my teenage years.

I'd like Eli 4.2 to have a chance to be a "fishing kid," too. That's why I'm in a sporting goods store on Friday afternoon, buying a fishing license for myself.

That's when I met Fishing Guy.

"So where are you going to fish?" he asked.

"Oh, there's a little park in Wells Branch that has a big pond," I said. It's five minutes from our house, which means I have a bail out if Eli isn't enjoying himself. And it's beautiful there.

"I've fished in that pond," he said. "No fish there."


"I know of a fishing hole where there are a lot of fish," he said. "I caught ten bass in an hour with live minnows last week, and I caught a catfish that was so big I couldn't get it out of the water."

Oh no.

Here's the thing about fishing, and I'd totally forgotten all about it: the secret fishing hole. Every guy has a secret fishing hole, or every guy knows a guy who knows a place, and every one of these secret fishing holes has more fish than you can imagine.

And secret fishing holes have rules.

Rule #1: You can't get there from here.

"It's at that old YMCA camp on 183," he said. "People think it's closed because of the construction, but what you have to do is go past it north on 183, then turn around and come back south. Then you drive across the construction and there's a road off to the side that winds around the lake."

Rule #2: The fish require a special bait or lure.
"I wouldn't buy those worms," he said. "I used live minnows. You'll just need a minnow bucket and a pump."

Rule #3: It's dangerous.
"There's a railing off to the side of the back road, and that's where you want to fish," he said.

"Good spot?" I asked.

"Can't fall in that way," he say. "It's pretty snakey this time of year."

Rule #4: There's an urban legend in residence.
"I fought that catfish for ten minutes," he said, "and I got him up to the railing, but I couldn't lift him over--it would have snapped my rod in two. I'd like to go back there with bigger tackle and take another crack at him. He was twenty pounds, easy."

I think that describes the secret fishing hole perfectly: you can't get to them, you can't use the bait you already have, and you might die, but there's been a verified sighting of the largest fish in the history of the world. And I'd like to hook a twenty-pound fish, because we have spincast reels and they would spontaneously combust. Eli 4.2 would feel like Captain Ahab.

And I can get an advanced marine biology degree in habitat for live minnows.

So I do the only reasonable thing: thank him profusely for his time, sneak back to the "bait fridge," and buy some damn worms.

The next morning, we head out. Eli 4.2, young fisherman, is very excited. Incredibly, I have a fishing vest that Gloria gave me five years ago as a joke, and I'm wearing it, although somehow I'm guessing that most fishermen don't use one of the pockets to store anti-bacterial wipes.

And we have gear: matching rod and reels, styrofoam container of worms, tackle box, Scooby-Doo portable chair, hand towels. I must be forgetting at least twenty items because we were weighed down like a jungle safari.

The pond is named Mill's Pond and it's beautiful, truly beautiful. It's an enormous pond, surrounded by trees, full of ducks--
[By the way, I just mistyped "ducks" in the most embarrassing way imaginable. Then, because I was already thinking about the remarkable obscenity of it all, I retyped it in the second most embarrassing way possible. I had no idea there were two misspellings of "ducks" that were so spectacularly obscene.]

There were geese, too, and fortunately there's no obscene misspelling of that. They were taking off and landing constantly, which totally fascinated Eli.

In other words, this pond was an absolutely perfect place to fish.

It just wasn't a good place to catch fish. There is no pond within a hundred miles of here where a cork and a worm won't catch fish easily and frequently.

Except this one, of course.

The only word I can think of to describe our corks is stoic. They simply never moved.

We still had a great time. Eli lasted for almost forty-five minutes, which for a four-year old is the adult equivalent of reading The Brothers Karamazov in one sitting, and we stopped at the adjoining park on the way home. It was outstanding, all in all, even though we released twenty-three of twenty-four worms back into the wild.

With great fanfare.

Anyway, I called my brother-in-law, and he has a secret fishing hole, and I pulled it up in the satellite view of Google Maps, and we're going there this Saturday, I think. Sure, it's almost impossible to get there from here, but I hear the fish are huge.

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