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So You Call This "Relaxing"?

It was a crystal-clear day, not a cloud in the late-afternoon sky. My dad, a man who fishes more for relaxation than for conquest, decided to sneak down to the lake next to our home for some late-day fishing. Having recently had hernia surgery, he knew that taking out his little birch-bark canoe would prove to be just what the doctor ordered. Grabbing his pole and tackle-box, Dad headed down the steps to the beach. The surface of the lake was smooth as glass, not a ripple in sight. Smiling, Dad got into the canoe and pushed off, gliding silently across the water. He lit up one of his cigars to smoke out any pesky mosquitoes, and began to slowly paddle across the inlet to a likely spot for some stolen peace and quiet.

Sighing contentedly, Dad cast toward the shore, knowing the fish lurked among the downed branches under the overhanging trees. The line hummed with his first cast as the lure sailed cleanly up and out…and over a low-hanging tree limb. A little splash followed as the lure hit the water on the other side of the limb. Grumbling, Dad paddled over to the limb, and positioned the canoe under it, then stood to reel in the line through the leaves and twigs, taking up some of the slack.

Without warning, a fish struck, and Dad rocked a bit in the canoe, trying to compensate for the sudden pull. "Great," he thought, trying to brace himself in the tippy canoe. "How the heck do I reel in a fish over a tree limb?" The fish, a portly trout, was heavy enough to bend the tree limb a little as it came thrashing up out of the water and into the air, dangling in front of Dad's face. He managed to get hold of the line and began to disengage the hook from the squirming fish’s mouth. It was a real challenge, trying not to stretch too much due to the mild pain starting in his side, reminding him of his recent surgery.

Just as Dad had the fish almost off the hook, things got really interesting. The trout gave one last thrash and flipped itself free, plunging back into the lake as Dad watched in dismay. Unfortunately, as the weight of the fish left the line, the tree limb popped up just enough to firmly catch Dad’s thumb on the now-exposed lure. At this point, he dropped the cigar from his clenched teeth and began to dig his thumb loose, trying not to think about his incision. Knees wobbling, cigar long forgotten, hand throbbing, Dad took a deep breath and tried to focus on the task at hand…when a lovely breeze picked up. The lightweight birch-bark canoe began to move. Cursing under his breath, he realized that dusk was coming along FAST. That was the last straw; Dad knew that if he didn’t do something immediately, he’d be swimming home!

Snapping the line with his teeth, Dad threw the whole tangled mess into the bottom of the canoe and paddled against the wind all the way home. This remains the ugliest "one that got away" story he's ever had to tell!

Submitted by Kelly Stettner, Springfield Vermont

For more great stories: See the Archive!

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