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Part Ninety-nine

Randy Fratzke

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Following My Own Advice

By Randy Fratzke

I'm sure you've all heard many expressions relating to the title of this article. Little things like "Dr., heal thy self!" and "Eating a little crow", or "Do as I say, not as I do". Well, it's my turn for a few major changes, again!

Seems like the recent Multiple Sclerosis attack wasn't quite nasty enough, I had to go and do something really stupid to top it off. Like, falling out of the back of a pick-up truck while helping unload river rock for a landscaping project. Hey folks, I did it right! When I knew I was going to fall, I went into the "tuck and roll position" so that when I hit I could just roll my fat little body on the ground to absorb the impact, just like I've been taught to do by the military. Of course that's when the Multiple Sclerosis really likes to jump in and help out. Like, I forgot that I still had a shovel in my hands!

Long story short, the flat part of the shovel hit my head (No harm done there except for a lump the size of an orange, I'm a hard-headed kraut) and when I hit (and rolled) the handle was against my chest, resulting in (we'll stay conservative and call it 180 plus pounds) of my weight pressing against it and breaking a couple of ribs. No lung damage, lots of bruises, a headache for a few days (at least I don't have much hair to comb, because that really hurts!)

Anyway, as I hobbled down to the river a few days back, fly rod in hand (my wife taunting me with words of encouragement - like, "You're the most obstinate person I've ever known! You're still on heavy medications for the Multiple Sclerosis attack. You've got two cracked or broken ribs and are on pain medication for that. You've got more bruises than a street fighter and a lump on the side of your head so big your hat won't fit and YOU WANT TO FLY FISH?" )

Okay, so being the type of guy I am, not unlike a lot of men, I took that as a challenge! After all, the crappies and gillies are spawning, not to mention the bass are in the shallows raiding their nests, and opportunity that only comes once a year! Well on the first cast attempt and old saying from Bill Cosby came to mind immediately: "And the PAIN was tremendous!" I couldn't very well scream, after all, that wouldn't be "macho", but I have to say, the inside of my lip really took a beating, not to mention the bugs in my eyes caused a little moisture! Time for some major changes if I was going to fly fish!

I needed to be able to get my popper or streamer about 35 feet into the shallows to where the fish were. There was no current to speak of so floating anything in with the current wasn't an option. I found a little shade under a tree, took off my vest, sat down (yes, my wife took immediate notice and yelled something to the effect of "I told you that you couldn't do it!")

Hmmm, another challenge! I started by cutting off the light-weight tippet material I usually used for small pan fish. Next I removed the light, 2 pound leader. I replaced the leader with some 8 pound monofilament line, no tippet. Then I tied on a small, "mini marshmallow" popper onto the mono. Then I headed back over to the river bank.

This time I knew the old, over-the-head single cast (or double, for that matter) was out of the question (my lip still hurt from the first attempt!) I kind of laid out about 30 feet of my line on the lawn behind me. Then, holding my rod about level to my waist, I carefully swung my body around, bending at the knees similar to a golfer, not the torso, and kind of "catapulted" the line into the middle of the shallows. I knew if the line got caught up in the grass or a weed I was taking a chance at busting the rod, but there was the challenge at stake here!

The technique seemed to work fairly well, and after a few more attempts and modifications I was able to get the popper out where I wanted it. It wasn't the most accurate casting, I'll admit that, but it worked. The weight of the line compensated for the back cast. After a few more casts I met the next challenge. I had a fish on! It felt like a decent sized one, but with the pulling on my arms and the pain it was producing in the chest, who could tell? What to do now? OK, this is why I put the heavier mono on. I simply held onto the line, backed up, literally dragging the fish onto shore. It wasn't pretty, but it was effective! And I wasn't in the catch and release mode anyway, I wanted to taste a few crappies for supper! (Don't bother writing me and trying to shame me into all the C/R stuff, I eat a lot of the fish I catch and I have no intention of stopping. I do, however stay conservative on my limits, only keeping what we are going to eat, and releasing obviously egg-filled females to spawn.) I put the 9 inch crappie on a stringer, hung it off the side of the dock and headed back for a few more.

I'd caught a half dozen when I noticed my wife walking down the lawn towards me. She'd seen the last one I'd caught and I guess curiosity had gotten the best of her. She asked how many I'd caught, I told her to take a look at the stringer. She looked, smiled, and said, "well I guess sometimes being bull headed does pay off!"

I looked at her and said, "Bull headed, ME? I thought it was innovation not bull headedness!"

She just smiled again and said, "So, I suppose you want me to heat up the big black skillet to fry these in, right?"

I, of course, said yes. She looked at me with one of those impish grins and said, "So do you think you can "innovate" a way to get that 10 pound, cast iron monster off the hook on the wall for me so I can use it?"

I thought for a moment then smiled back and said, "Sure, I'll just catch a few extras, invite the neighbor over for fish dinner, and ask him to get the pan down for me so YOU can fry the fish!"

She blushed a little bit, turned and started walking back up to the house, then stopped, turned and said, "I guess I better be careful of the tasks I challenge you with for a while, you seem to be able to come up with a resolution for almost anything! But what do you think about later on tonight?"

Like I said, I love a good challenge! ~ Randy Fratzke

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