To call me a fishing guide would be an insult to the profession, but I have dabbled in taking family and friends out for day-trips of adventure. My first “customer” was a hulking brute with arms the size of hams and legs like small tree trunks. His vocabulary consisted mainly of grunts and snorts, and he had a strange habit of flexing his muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger every time he hoisted a fish for a photo.
The only reason I would agree to fish with someone who could squeeze me into a soup can was because I had to. He was my brother, Joe.
We arrived at the boat launch early one morning, and Joe snarled at me, “I hope you know what you’re doing.” All we had in the boat, besides our fishing gear, was a borrowed 6-horsepower Evinrude (that was probably built during The Great Depression) and a 7-foot-long monstrosity I had dubbed “the push pole.”
I designed it after watching too many saltwater fishing shows on cable TV, imagining we could pole our way through shallow water searching for the dark shadows of hungry fish.
To the untrained eye, the push pole was simply two aluminum shafts adjoined with duct tape, but to me it was the tool of a professional guide. Looking back, it was a near disaster in the making.
The morning started out just fine. The motor fired up without a hitch and we left the dock in a cloud of exhaust smoke. The old Evinrude gallantly pushed us upriver with the front of the boat bogged down by Joe’s considerable bulk.
We came to a railroad crossing with large stone abutments, a perfect place to try for some smallmouth bass. Joe cast a Rapala toward shore and popped a nice bronzeback right away. After that, he continued to catch one bass after another while I managed to snag nothing but rocks, trees and the occasional backlash.
I kept my composure through all of this and soon decided it was time to switch fishing holes.
That’s when it happened. The ancient motor refused to turn over no matter how many times I pulled the cord. The current was getting swift and taking us toward a treacherous fork in the river; one way led back to the safety of the launch, the other to a small dam and a considerable amount of pain.
Without missing a beat, I grabbed the trusty push pole. To my dismay, we had drifted into a deep part of the river, and the pole wouldn’t touch bottom. “Give me that thing,” roared Joe as he ripped the pole from my grasp. He immediately started using that pole like paddle, his huge muscles whipping the water to a froth.
Miraculously, Joe was able to steer us into the fork that led to the boat launch, and I was never happier that my brother liked to lift weights. When we reached the launch, he glared at me and handed over the remains of the push pole.
It was bent at a 90-degree angle, never to stalk the freshwater flats again and soon to be replaced by a set of oars and an electric trolling motor!
NAFC member Matthew Curatolo is a newspaper reporter and freelance outdoor writer in Ogdensburg, New York. He lives with his wife, Angela, and daughter, Brenna, who both enjoy fishing.