The Summer Solstice Tried to Kill Me - Part One

To be fair to Mother Nature, she doesn’t care if we live or die. We’re not even a blip on her radar, just another organism on her planet. She goes about doing what she’s been doing every day for the past few billion years, or, if you’re a creationist, the past few thousand years. Either way, if we’re too stupid to get out of her way when she’s having a bad day, well, that’s our problem.

I try to get out on the longest day of the year and fish till sunset. The sunset seems to last forever and it makes for quite a few last casts. I could tell this one was going to be cloudy till the end, but the radar didn’t show anything I had to be concerned about.

With all the river and creek fishing options available to me, for some reason I chose to go to a more urban stretch of the Fox. The river was low enough that with a little bit of caution, I could wade anywhere I felt like. The river hasn’t been at that level since last year, so I thought I’d go do some long over due wandering. Besides, the one creek I wanted to fish was still flowing a little muddy from our last bout with rain, which was unusual.

With fishing more urban areas comes more urban issues. I no sooner opened the back hatch on my car to start getting ready when I noticed a kid on a mountain bike wandering over. He looked to be about 20 and had that slightly crazy look to him. He kept making a wide circle around my car, going up and down a small hill and bouncing over nearby landscaping.

Then I made a classic mistake when it comes to crazy people, don’t look them in the face. It was like a fly to crap. A beeline right up to me.

“Did you catch anything?” he asked.

Simple enough question, as anglers we get asked that all the time by passersby. But his jittery eyeballs were telling me this conversation was going to go somewhere else.

“I’m just heading out.” Crazy person mistake number 2, don’t engage them in conversation.

“What kind of fish are you going after?”

“Smallmouth bass, but I’ll take anything that gets hooked.”

“What do you do with the snakeheads, throw them up on shore?”

And there it was. Cut right to the chase with crazy shit. I think my initial reaction, after stuttering a few times, was “What?”

“Snakeheads? What do you do when you catch a snakehead?”

“There aren’t any snakeheads in this river. There’s a slight chance some idiot threw away a pet that got out of hand, but they don’t live here.”

He then described in detail how he caught 3 snakeheads just up the road by a bridge. He was going on in step by fishing step detail when off to my right comes “who the hell’s been throwing all this garbage around, the damn hillbillies?”

It was the neighborhood drunk. I know he’s the neighborhood drunk because over the past year I’ve run into him twice in this same spot and he’s always drunk. You have to treat drunks the same as crazy people, don’t look them in the face and don’t respond to them. I made that mistake with this guy, twice.

He kept ranting and raging and I kept ignoring him. His rant shut up the kid and his snakehead stories, but it attracted the kid to the drunk. That happens with crazy people and drunks, a natural attraction to each other. They wandered off and sat down under a tree about 20 feet away to continue on with whatever they were both ranting about.

When I’m getting ready to go fishing I tend to concentrate too hard on what I’m doing. I have no choice. Too many times I’ve walked away and forgotten crucial pieces of equipment. The crazy talk had distracted me enough to make me keep forgetting little things. Plus, I was now hurrying a bit more than usual. I didn’t want them to suddenly appear next to me with more questions and conversation.

When I was checking to see if the car door was locked for the third time, the cheap cigar I was smoking fell out of my mouth and down the front of my new waders. I was able to trap it quickly and keep it from going past my chest, only I couldn’t get my hand down my waders fast enough. The cigar started melting a hole into the small zippered pouch on the inside of the waders. I got the cigar out, but there was still smoke pouring out of my waders. I flipped the pocket over and out, the hole started flaring red when it hit the wind and I thought for sure it was going to burst into flames. A few good panicked slaps took care of it.

I don’t use that little pocket anyway.

All right, enough, time to go fishing. Everything that needed to get done at the car was done, mentally checked a half dozen times and the two under the tree were engrossed in a conversation. Time to get the hell out of there…

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