Welcome to Panfish!

Part One Hundred-thirtyfour

Randy Fratzke

Sitting On The Rock

By Randy Fratzke


As I sit here in the frozen tundra of the upper mid-west, looking out the window at the blowing and drifting snow of yet another blizzard (the third so far this year and it's just barely winter) memories of the warmer times, not to mention better fishing conditions, of last fall float back into my brain.

The phone had rung late one Wednesday night, I cursed for having to get up and answer it, expecting another "telephone solicitor" to greet me with the usual spiel on who cares what. I answered in my normal "anti-solicitor", gruff, tone, "Who is it, whadaya sellin' at this hour?" I rattled off when I picked up the phone. There was the normal "dead air time" at the other end of the line, which I've come to expect from someone who has not just been greeted by the accustomed "Hello?" After a couple of seconds I hit them with my "Phase 2", "Well, is this a deep breathing exercise, a government telephone test, another opinion survey or what?" I snapped.

Finally, there was a clearing of a throat, an "um" and an "uhh" and a careful inquiry from the other end, "Fritz?" asked timidly, "Is this you?"

Well, at least it wasn't my mother at the other end. "Yo Mikey, sorry, just tired of the political surveyors and getting a little cranky I guess. Sorry about that, What's up?" now trying to sound friendly.

"Well, we haven't been out fishing for a while and Joe mentioned a new place, down river, below the Quaskie dam that the bass seemed to like to play in and I was wondering if you were up to it?"

About 300 things ran through my head all at once, a whole lot of them concerning fishing, and equipment, and flies, and good stuff. Then the dark ones started filtering in, like a reminder of the rough summer I'd had with the Multiple Sclerosis, and my weak legs, and wading in water below a dam, and slippery rocks, etc.

Finally, Mike broke the silence with a little comment, "Fritz, I know it's been kind of a rough year for ya, so if you don't want to try it, that's cool. I just thought I'd offer."

My wife had been listening to my end of the conversation, and took the phone from my ear, "Mike? When, where and what time and does he need his waders?" OK, Friday morning? He'll be ready, just stop by the doughnut shop on the way, he'll be ready!" and she hung up the phone.

"Not your decision this time, Hun! Mike's offered and your going. Maybe you won't be so darn ornery if you got out and wet a line with your friends once in a while!"

I guess I was going fishing.

Thursday evening, Rachelle helped find my gear and "get stuff in order" for the morning. I was amazed; she was almost like my first Drill Sergeant in the Army. "Clean the dust off that rod and why wasn't inside a sock or a tube to start with?" she barked, "then clean the line on those two reels, it doesn't look like they've been cleaned all year!" "I can't believe the spider webs growing on stuff." I guess it had been a while since I'd wet a fly line.

Friday morning came around with the usual smell of fresh ground coffee coming from the kitchen. Then Sgt. Rachelle interrupted the scene, "Get your butt outta bed!" she chided harshly, "Mike'll be here in an hour and your not even out of bed yet!"

"OK, OK. I'm getting there." I responded, trying to clear my head and figure out what was even going on.

"The coffee's on, I've packed you a lunch, your gear is setting next to the garage, have fun today, I gotta get to work or I'll be late" she rolled out in one breath, then gave me a quick kiss and headed out the door.

"Wow! Like a steamroller, baby," was the first thing that came into my mind.

By the time Mike and Joe arrived I was up, dressed, pouring my second cup of coffee and had a good Blues CD playing on the stereo. "I'm a steamroller, baby - I'm gonna roll right over you."

Now Mike is not what you'd call the "archetypical flyrodder" by any sort of the imagination. He's about 5'10, a good 290 lbs. and his "normal" attire consists of "Big Mac" bib style overalls, a rough looking tee shirt and the old beige leather Redwing boots. Yup, a retired hog farmer. Joe, on the other hand, is about 6'4", around 180 lbs. and usually dresses in the latest clothing fad, from IZOD to Polo to Nike. He's a retired banker. Now how these two unlikely looking guys ever got together no one ever really figured out, but you seldom see one without the other when they're on the water. Kind of a Mutt and Jeff, Laurel and Hardy, what ever you like, mismatched looking, pair of anglers. They arrived in Mike's beat up 10-year-old, Chevy 3/4-ton pickup, right on time. They got out of the truck before the dust settled behind the tires, Mike, with doughnuts in hand, Joe with a fly-box. "Priorities," was the first thing to come to mind.

"OK," Joe was saying, "we've had our coffee and doughnuts, NOW can we fish?" He'd been pretty hyper the entire 20 minutes they'd been here. Showing me the latest flies he'd tied "special for the day," downing a couple of cups of coffee and two doughnuts during that time span.

"I s'pose the fish have waited long enough," Mike said just before he shoved another doughnut half in his mouth and washed it down with coffee. We put my gear in the back of the truck and headed down the road. ~ Randy Fratzke

Continued next time!

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