Okay, there's fishing, and then there's fishing. I prefer the former, the kind where you pay a charter captain and mate to take you and a half-dozen friends out on their big, brawny deadrise, Rockin' and Reelin'; the kind where said captain and mate know exactly where to go, when to go there, how to rig the lines, and, above all, what exactly to do with a 25-pound rockfish once it's on the boat; the kind where you come back with 150 pounds of fish in the cooler and everyone goes home with two month's worth of giant filets. That kind of fishing.
The other kind, the kind that requires me to know and do all those things, I'm not so crazy about. Because, see, I don't know or do all those things. Or rather, I don't do them because I know them only randomly, and only for about 10 minutes every month. Those would be the 10 minutes after I've read John Page Williams's Angler's Almanac column in this magazine. For those 10 minutes I get it. I understand that I should try fishing the Wild Grounds down near the mouth of the West River or the rock piles of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. And for those 10 minutes I'm inspired to try, say, light-tackle jigging with a five-inch Saltwater Assassin on a 4/0 Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp swim-bait hook. Or, what the hell, maybe even a six-inch Bass Kandy Delight on a 1/4-ounce Lunker City Fin-S jig head. But then it's gone, vanished, evaporated like so many drops of rain on hot asphalt. That's the difference between me and John Page Williams; his, um, asphalt stays wet. Wait. What? No, what I mean is, he really knows all that stuff, and I only know where the hyphens go and what gets capitalized.
So you'd think that when I invite friends to go boating with me on the Bay I'd be inclined to discourage fishing. You'd think I'd have been so inclined earlier this summer when planning a little half-day outing with my old friend Lee and her son Palmer. But no. When she said, "Maybe we can do a little fishing!" I said, "Sure!" Good heavens, what was I thinking? Why didn't I have a lie ready? I could've nipped it right in the bud by saying that, as everyone knows, there's no fishing allowed on the Bay on Fridays in June, because of the whole crab thing with the oysters and the snail darters and the EPA and whatnot, and plus this time of year all the best fish are off spawning in the . . . um . . . Sargasso Sea.
It's good I didn't say any of that, actually, because Palmer never would have bought it. Lee might have (she lives in Ellicott City, after all, above the fall line), but not Palmer. Though he's only 12, he is in fact quite the experienced fisherman, it turns out. He brought his own rods. Brought his own bait. Rigged his own lines. All I had to do was drive the boat and pretend like I knew where the fish might be. I didn't have the faintest idea, of course, but I made a good show of it, "prowling the edges" of the channels and looking for "submerged structure."
To my great relief, we didn't catch anything, which is to say it was exactly the kind of fishing trip I like, the kind where I don't have to know or do anything. Sorry, Palmer. You ride with me, that's how we roll.