Thursday, June 9, 2011

Here Fishy Fishy

I'm going to tell you a story. A story of may flies and walleyes, Animal House levels of alcohol comsumption, a steakhouse that wasn't, urination, and beginner's luck. It won't always be pretty. It might offend some of you with more delicate constitutions. Some of the language may be borderline harsh. I apologize in advance for all of this. But it's just a story.

If you look closely you can
see the kitchen sink.
It was a Monday, Memorial Day actually, when friend and coworker Bob[1] packed up a truck and headed down to South Dakota to meet up with another friend and coworker, Jim, and his boat. When we arrived the wind was howling, causing swarms of may flies to careen into my face and, when it was open, into my mouth. Jim warned us to avoid the "patches that look like mud" on the ground, as they were actually the remains of hundreds of thousands (millions?) of may flies. Apparently there was some sort of insect turf war. I guess the may flies won, as they certainly maintained air superiority.

To all the workers who died building
this monument, rest in peace.
We loaded up the boat and headed the four hours west to our final destination: a state park in central South Dakota I later found out was known for the Great Rattlesnake Manifestation of 2009. Let me just say it's a very good thing I found this out after we were driving back to Fargo and leave it at that. Being Monday evening, the campground was almost deserted. There were maybe two other campsites occupied close enough that we could see them. We quickly made camp, starting with the giant tent Jim brought along. Once it was up and we dismissed the hundreds of day laborers we hired to help, I quickly dubbed it the "Tim Mahal". Jim. Jim Mahal.

With that it was time to mix a drink. Okay, second drink. We had one while supervising the tent workers. As unlikely as it sounds, drinking would become a recurring theme of the week. More on that later (read: shocking statistics to come). I broke out some really excellent hot dogs and cajun brats from Thielen's Meats (after having boiled the brats in beer before leaving Fargo; I'm not a barbarian). After washing those down with some Crown Royal we hit the hay, ready to hit the water early in the morning.

The next morning the wind was gusting up to 476 miles per hour. Naturally, we set out to find a bay or something we could hunker down in to fish, cause after all, what are we, girls? We got on the water and fought the wind for a couple of hours. At one point Poseidon rose from the depths of the bay and hurled a wave at us. It was 100 feet high if it was an inch. That didn't really happen. But we did get tossed around to the point that we all three simultaneously said, "f--- this, let's go back to camp and drink." So we did.

First catch of the trip.
Wednesday dawned and things looked a bit brighter. The winds were a manageable 15-20 and the sun was coming out in dribs and drabs. It was a little cold on the water, but it was welcome after our run-in with the water god the previous day. Being the rookie[2] I needed some pointers on how to catch walleye. Apparently dragging a leech along the top of the water is not the preferred method. Huh. Anyway, Bob caught our first two fish of the day. Jim got one too, and I was feeling like an extra anchor since I hadn't gotten even a bite. Then I caught the next four fish of the day, including a 29 1/2 inch monster that nearly cracked the hull getting it into the boat. Good times. Oh, and we were doing "Lithuanian Shots" everytime we caught a keeper. A Lithuanian Shot is when you guzzle from a liquor bottle because (1) you don't have a shot glass and (2) you're trying to get loaded, duh. We took our limit (of fish, not booze -- that would come later).
Biggest catch of the trip.

Obviously, the first thing you want to do when you come off the water with your limit of fish is to go back to camp and fry them up. So obviously we headed to a place called Bob's Steakhouse[3] instead. Bob's Steakhouse is the most unique steakhouse in the world in that it only has three steak entrees on its menu and all three of them are the same cut. 90% of the menu is not steak. That said, the top sirloin was pretty good and they almost managed to cook it rare for me. Seriously, no chef ever believes me when I say I want it rare. That's a post for another day though. Anyway, it was pretty good and they had a full bar there so it was fine.

As an aside, I had no idea how spiny walleye are. When you get one in the boat they lay there, all passive, until they sense you are about to touch them. Then they spring themselves into the air and all these defensive weapons in the form of spines fly out from all parts of the fish, impaling everything in site. My fingers and hands were cut to shred before I just started shooting them once I got them into the boat. If you've never seen this phenomenon, this is what it looks like:

A walleye with defensive spines deployed.

Wednesday night, more drinking, etc.

Thursday would prove to be a seminal day in the history of fishing. The weather was absolutely perfect. There was a bit of a breeze, just enough to keep the water moving  but no enough to make it difficult to navigate. We didn't catch anything like the monster from the day before, but we did catch both our limit and take three walleye over 20 inches (which was also a limit). More importantly we beat a 1.75 of Jack Daniels to death with our livers. Since the dawn of time man has yearned to destroy a 1.75 liter bottle of whiskey from within the confines of a fishing trip. Well, we did it. And we looked good doing it, too. That evening we did fry up some of our freshest catch and it was delicious.

Thursday night, more drinking, etc.

Linda's: home of the $24
six pack of Busch Lite
Friday was basically a repeat of Thursday as far as the weather and our success at catching fish. It was a bit hotter (around 82 as I recall). We didn't drink nearly as much, having suspended the "catch a fish, drink a shot" rule due to the small poles flying tiny white flags that unceremoniously thrust themselves through our torsos by our failing livers. Good time rock -n- roll! We fried up some more fish for dinner and killed off the last of our beans that night. On the way back to camp though, we decided to break our treaty with our livers and get some more booze, so we stopped in Akaska[4] and picked up two liters of Jack. Do not ever do this. Apparently the town's sole source of revenue is the taxes it levies on alcohol. One liter of Jack in Akaska goes for $32.50. This is not a joke. I've been in three card monte games that didn't rip me off this badly. Of course, this didn't stop us from paying.

Saturday was our last day on the water, so we wanted to make it count. To show you how serious we were, we only packed beer on the boat this time. Yeah, I know, right? Like I said: serious. Now, when I say "beer", I mean Coors Lite, which is to beer as reality TV is to reality. That is to say, it bears no relation. But canned beer was the logical choice to take camping and boating, and when I'm going to drink cheap beer I want it to taste as much like water as possible. Thus, the Coors Lite. Seriously. Drink a Fat Tire or a Rogue Dead Guy and follow it up with one of these. I dare you to tell the difference between Coors Lite and bottled water. Anyway, we brought 48 of these and were down to our last 20 or so. In the cooler they went. They would not return.

We caught one short of our limit, and only one over 20 inches, so it wasn't our best day of fishing. That's not to say it was bad. Jim did an awesome job of finding the spots where they were biting and keeping us over them, so after being frustrated most of the day we started hitting late. On the way back to shore we discussed the liquor situation, which at that point was dire. We had a 1/2 bottle of $32.50 Jack at camp. We had exhausted the beer. So, yeah, we went back to Linda's and bought a liter of Crown Royal. It was the right decision.

Remember the fallen.
 (Not pictured, 48 cans of beer.)
That night we finished off the dogs and brats, supplementing it with a little bit more fish. We also killed off all the booze. Our liquor bottle population was decimated at this point. It was like we committed whiskey genocide or something. Heck, I haven't even mentioned the words "Jim Beam", because he was with us for so brief a time. He was there and gone like leaf in the wind. The next day I gathered the bodies. They were stacked like cordwood, having given their lives to shorten ours.

Sunday dawned and we packed up, tired but a little sad to be going. It was a great trip, and I give my eternal thanks to Jim and Bob for inviting me. I hope I acquitted myself well. If not, at least I got to drink a lot. I learned quite a few things on the trip and have memories to last a lifetime. Some things I'll never forget:

"I like your outfit."
"Hey, I caught a rock!"
"I like a fat wiener in the ash."
"What just fell in the water?"
"You're interesting to talk to."
"Hey, I caught another rock!"
"I'm becoming a Crown bigot."
"I have to write this s--- down."

[1] Names have been changed to protect the intoxicated.

[2] I've been fishing plenty of times before, but my only experience walleye fishing involved catching every other type of fish other than a walleye, up to and including giant squid.

[3] No relation to the Bob on our trip, which isn't even his real name anyway. Are you paying attention?

[4] Town motto: 'It's like Alaska with an extra K!'

For all the pictures you didn't see here, check out the online photo album.

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