travelog 19

Gone Fishin'

As is typical in America preparations and the drive itself take more time than the main reason for our excursion. First we have to prepare the boat the evening before. To fortify ourselves the next morning we eat a big breakfast with eggs, bacon, potatoes, toast and with brown water (well-known to those who know "Baghdad Café") - American coffee. The restaurant could be anywhere in the Wild West. Four cowboys with their hats on sit on a long counter and flirt with the waitress, on the tables are plastic table-cloths, mustard and ketchup, in a corner the latest newspapers with the most important news (robbery, murder and manslaughter), on a blackboard the specials of the day, country music from big speakers, and some older couples who are also early risers like we are.

We drive to Detroit Lake with Suzy and Gil, friends that we got to know one year ago in Portland, Oregon. The drive takes ages but there is a lot to see on the way. The woods glow in fall colors - yellow, orange, rust-colored - and only the conifers are still green. For Halloween the houses are decorated with orange pumpkins. The weather is kind to us. Although they predicted rain the sun is shining and the sky is blue as far as the horizon. In a small store we purchase worms, yummy-yummy for the poor fish. The lake is a reservoir and for the winter they lower the water level to make space for rain and snow melt. The shore looks eerie with all the dark trunks of partly-submerged trees. It's also a little bit difficult to launch the boat without any accident. But once in the water we proceed rapidly down to the dam where Gil expects to find the most fish. On a sonar we cannot only see the distance to the lake bottom but also shoals of fish or individual big fish.

With two permanently-mounted fishing rods we cruise along the tree-trunks that close off the area of the dam. We can see lots of fish on the sonar but none bites. Suddenly after one hour it gets really exciting and the fish bite all together so that we have our hands full of work. One trout is too small, so she goes back into the water where she's picked up like lightning by a seagull. The other trout will later find her way onto our plates. We free her from the hook and hit her head on the edge of the boat. Immediately she stops wriggling. Now it's time for Martin's big moment: He's responsible for threading up the half-worms on the hook. Then everything goes quickly and we decide to roll gently in a certain area along the tree-trunks.

The fish - trout and small salmon - are crazy about our worms. Some bite the worm from the hook without getting caught. Others just hit the silvery metal plates that are attached to the lines to attract fish in the water. But still enough fish find their way into our cooler that we can be sure to have a nice dinner. My task is to learn from Gil how to bump a wriggling, slippery trout off into the kingdom of fish-heaven quickly and without pain. Normally one would give the fish a blow to the back of the neck with a wooden rod. For lack of anything better we break their necks over the hard edge of the boat. It's not that difficult if you think about them as a delicious dinner! The division of labor for our future fishing adventures has been fixed. Martin has to deal with the worms, I'm responsible for the rest. In plain English: kill and clean. In the late afternoon we set off for home with 10 trout and one small salmon in our cooler.

Now we have the problem of reaching the shore without getting wet. But first of all we can learn from two other boats in front of us how we really should not do it. It crunches and crashes when the boats hit the hidden trunks under water. The drivers have big difficulties maneuvering their car with the trailer into the water. And of course their shoes get really wet. Gil seems to have more experience than these other boaters, and very quickly we are ready for take-off.

The return journey goes on and on. We have to drive back to Portland with all the other Sunday outing people. Once at the house we have to clean and store the boat first. Then we can devote ourselves to the dinner. We roast the fish in foil on the barbecue. We stuff their bellies with fresh herbs and lemon wedges. Then we cover them with onion and garlic slices and more lemons. As a side-dish we have rice, salad and a white wine from the area. Enjoying the freshly-caught fish we totally forget about the unpleasant parts of obtaining them. We think that this will not be the last time we try our hands at fishing.

October 1999

Julia Etter & Martin Kristen