I only turned my back for a moment, and it was gone.
Out through the door of Mensendiek’s Auction Service went a guy carrying a couple of fishing rods. One of them was the blue pole and Zebco reel that I had been eying all day.
Heading out on a vacation to the Poconos, I had to be equipped to try my hand at fishing, which I know is a sport because I see it on all the sports cable channels.
I did what any self-respecting cheapskate would do. I chased the guy into the parking lot.
“How much did you pay for those poles?” I asked.
The answer was $2. Oh gosh.
I summoned my best bargaining skills, honed during my days at the University of Arizona when I would venture down to Nogales, Mexico, and purchased the blue rod and reel for $5. Score.
After purchasing a plastic bobber, some hooks and nightcrawlers, I was ready for competition, for a total investment of under $12.
Well, almost ready. My family reunion was in Bushkill Falls, Pennsylvania, with our cabins nestled against a pretty lake in the mountains. My nephew informed me that I would need an out-of-state license.
No problem. Well, no problem until I found out it was $34 for the week. Welcome to Pennsylvania, where they jab you with a sharp stick to the eye if you want to fish.
Consider that Indiana’s out-of-state license is $20. Perhaps Pennsylvania’s catfish can sing and dance.
In any event, I was ready. I went back to the lake, walked down to the shore and sent the unlucky worm into the water. Whoa. A bite on my first cast?
I yanked on the pole until it bent over. Either Jaws lived in the lake or I was hooked on a concrete block. I had to cut the line. That poor worm gave his life in vain.
The week passed and cast after cast netted little other than fish that would feel right at home in a household aquarium. Then, at 11 p.m. on one of my final nights at the lake, the bobber plunged beneath the surface.
I wish I could say I hooked the fish, but at the time, I was involved in a spirited discussion about whether the North Star is part of the Big Dipper (It is not, by the way. The Big Dipper rotates around it during the night).
My pole was being dragged across the dock so I put down my adult beverage and I managed to get to it before it went into the water. Hey, a real fish.
I reeled it in, with a nice fight when the fish got close to the dock. My $5 pole with a push-button reel worked quite nicely, though, and I yanked a nice catfish out of the water.
After a bit of work to get the hook out of its mouth ... I tried the foot on the fish tactic, but it didn’t work so I actually had to pick it up ... I took a good look at my $46 fish.
And then back into the water it went. On a moon-lit night, my vacation was complete as I had conquered the sport of fishing.
I was an athlete, at last.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 379-5632.