Amazing saga of not fishing


Today, friends, we shall contemplate mating carp and surfing turtles, and just about anything else I can remember from a recent fishing trip to Liberty Reservoir with my pal Bush Hog.

I remember distinctly that, in preparation for the first fishing trip of the year -- and the first one in too long a time -- I went to a tackle shop. And while I was there, a fellow came in and inquired as to the best catfish bait on the market. And the big guy behind the counter, who was divvying and bagging night crawlers at the time, nodded in the general direction of an aisle in the store and said: "Earthworm hot dogs. They're really hittin' 'em."

No lie, folks.

Somebody -- I'm guessing a chemist in New Jersey -- came up with the idea of taking essence of earthworm, along with some actual earthworm meat, running it through a sausage extruder, forming it into the shape of hot dogs, slicing them up and packing them in jars. The labels on the jars say, "Not for human consumption."

Which I'm glad they put on the jars, as my friend Bush Hog might have been tempted to eat them.

He's like that, you know.

You might remember my telling you about Bush Hog eating all sorts of exotic foods during previous fishing adventures on rocking head boats on the Chesapeake -- raw oysters, orange beef-lip sausage in brine, hot salsa and Velveeta balls. Such debauchery. The likes you've never seen.

No surprise, then, that our Sunday morning fishing trip began with a stop at a Reisterstown convenience store, where Bush Hog purchased some of that dark brown, wrinkled beef jerky that comes in vacuum-wrapped plastic with an expiration date beyond the millennium. These morsels were the size and shape of strips of bacon, about 7 inches long, and they fit perfectly in a horizontal, zippered pocket on Bush Hog's L.L. Bean fishing vest.

"If it fits, eat it. That's my attitude," Bush Hog said.

We went up to the reservoir, walked through the woods and stood on some rocks at water's edge. There were some men and boys on the opposite shore. It was nice and quiet, warm and sunny. Some Canada geese flew by, the sun shimmering on their backs, the tips of their wings snapping at the surface of the water.

As always, Bush Hog and I were more interested in talking than fishing, more interested in catching up than catching fish. This was your basic male-bonding experience. Bush Hog and I have one about as frequently as we rotate our tires -- every two years.

But Sunday morning, ours wasn't the only bonding going on.

We heard one, then two, then three and four and five big splashes along the shore. I thought someone was throwing big rocks into the reservoir. Or maybe some awkward beavers were belly-flopping. Anyway, it was loud.

It was carp. Hundreds of them.

They were in pairs, parked in water about two inches deep, and they were flipping and flapping and splashing, and if you've never seen carp doing this, then just imagine Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in that steamy beach scene in "From Here To Eternity," and you've got the essential image. Bizarre stuff. Like something you'd see on Marty Stouffer's "Wild America," only Marty wasn't there to make one of his trenchant observations, such as: "The carp becomes quite animated when spawning."

These were the friskiest fish I'd ever seen.

Bush Hog was astonished. "Amazing," he said.

Who knew carp were into dirty dancing?

Next thing I saw was a big stick about 60 feet off the shore. There was a black lump on the stick. And the lump had a neck. And a head. A turtle had crawled up on the stick.

Just then -- I'm figuring it was 8:30 a.m. -- Bush Hog unzippered the pocket in his L.L. Bean fishing vest, pulled out the beef jerky, tore at the plastic wrapper with his teeth and bit into that finely cured meat (about eight years before its expiration date).

There was a mild current in the middle of the reservoir and, in a matter of minutes, the current had moved the big stick with the turtle 100 yards to the south. The turtle was riding the wave.

That was the smartest turtle I'd ever seen.

Bush Hog was impressed. "Amazing," he said.

Who knew turtles were into surfing?

We spent the rest of the morning watching the turtle surfing in the middle of the reservoir, listening to the carp dirty dancing along the shore, chewing the fat and chewing beef jerky. Man, it don't get much better than that.

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