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Forgotten Fish, a Trolling Motor, Baitcasters, and Sunken Gear

I swear, if I could have called this blog ‘Bumble Fish’ when I was first creating it, I would have because I constantly feel like I am bumbling my way through this craft.

But that name is already taken by another business. so I took a more serious approach and decided to call my blog Where Water Meets Air. Which, actually, is just perfect and I’m glad it worked out that way. But, the fact is, I do bumble through this constantly. This is not a bad thing, in fact, it’s fun and extremely entertaining. It’s ALWAYS a learning experience, and is one of the main reasons I love this sport!

A Prime Bumblefish Moment

Part 1.

The shameful way I came to own a beautifully bright orange fish cooler.

Recently I went on a fishing charter targeting Haddock and Pollock. The Yellowbird, out of Hampton, NH, is my favorite charter boat around, and this trip was a marathon, meaning the boat departs at 5 am and returns by 5 pm. I planned the trip somewhat last minute after I got the urge to be out there deep-sea fishing, knowing my next scheduled trip wasn’t for another two weeks. I had sent Becky, of the Yellowbird, a message, “Any room for me this week?”. Fortunately, she had just had a cancellation for two for the upcoming Friday. “I’m in, at least for one!” I reserved a spot.

I don’t mind going on this charter by myself. I’ve done it before and had just as much fun as when going with friends. The Captain and Crew are super nice and fun to be around and the other people on board are great to strike up a conversation with. We are all there for the love of fishing. Despite this, I felt the need to fill both of the canceled spots, so I started asking around to find someone to go with me on this spur of the moment trip.

Enter Rhonda!

I’ve known Rhonda for many years. She’s an amazing, very fun, very high energy woman and she loves to fish! Our paths don’t cross often, but when they do, we always talk about going fishing together. This trip was the first time we would do that and it was so much fun that we made a weekend of it!

Rhonda and her scooter

Rhonda zips around town on a hot pink motor scooter with her fishing poles. (Omg, I just love her!!!)

Currently, this is her main mode of transportation, so, I was definitely the designated driver for our fishing trip! As planned, on the day of our trip, I awoke at 2 am, and got myself together quickly, having packed the car the night before. I was out the door and at Rhonda’s house by 3:15 am. We arrived at the Yellowbird by 4 am, and we left the dock at 5 am. Good, already tired, but all working as planned.

The boat left dock at 5 am. We watched the sun rise as we headed to the first fishing spot, we were ready to fish!

We were having tons of fun, lots of laughs, and we fished hard. I don’t know what it was. Luck? Evidence that I am actually getting pretty good at this? But it was my best day yet on the boat. I brought in fish after fish. Apparently, I caught the most fish on the boat that day according to Cap. We released many of the fish back to the ocean, while others filled our coolers.

Now, here’s where things started to go wrong.

I said coolers, not cooler.

Rhonda had a big cooler on wheels. I had a small soft cooler for food and a small hard cooler for the filleted fish. Usually, my coolers suffice. Not this time. Rhonda and I split up the fish we had caught. My half of the fish would not all fit into my little fish cooler so I had to put some into my lunch cooler. My next misstep was moving my fish cooler to another location on the boat while one of the mates scrubbed down the boat on the way back to dock. Typically I keep my belongings in the cabin, but because of COVID 19, I was trying to keep out of the cabin. I tucked my cooler into the back of the boat instead.

We felt exhausted but fulfilled when we arrived back at the dock. We each grabbed a cooler and headed for home. I dropped Rhonda off at her house then drove home and unpacked the car. I realized I had my lunch cooler with some fish with me, but my full fish cooler was not there. No! No! No! No! My best deep-sea fishing day ever, and I had left my catches behind on the boat. Or was the cooler left behind in the parking lot at the dock? Had I left it on the roof of the car and driven off? Where was my cooler?

I could have cried…

Feeling too tired and upset to do anything about it that evening, I didn’t call the boat. What was I going to do about it anyway? It was late and the next morning I was planning to be up and out early for another fishing trip. I wouldn’t have time to drive back to Hampton, even if they found the fish. But, the next morning I did call the Yellowbird. Yes, the cooler had been found that morning on the boat where I had left it, but the fish had to be thrown out. The ice in the cooler had melted. The fish had gone bad.

The worst part of this story is that I believe I had abused my right as a fisherwoman, I wasted beautiful fish, it was disrespectful and unforgivable. I no longer deserved to fish. I mean, I really really took this to heart. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and so angry at myself. This will never happen again I vowed to myself. I did some online research and product comparisons and found the perfect match for my situation. And that, my fishing friends, is how I came to own my beautiful BLAZE ORANGE ORCA Cooler. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Choosing a color I couldn’t overlook, I vowed never to leave my cooler behind again.

Part 2.

Learning to use a trolling motor the hard and crazy way and a brief introduction to baitcasters.

I had planned to go striper fishing off the coast of Maine, the day after that deep sea fishing trip. But, the trip was canceled last minute due to COVID19. Now I really was feeling down, things were just not going right since walking off the boat yesterday. I told Rhonda what had happened, and she invited me to come bass fishing with her and her friend Lisa that afternoon. Spirits uplifted! Another adventure sure to be fun! Yes! I’m in!

Rhonda, several of her friends including Lisa, and I, all met up at her cousin’s house about 45 minutes west of us. Introductions were made. Rhonda’s cousin had a beautiful new bass boat and while Rhonda was getting her fishing gear together, her cousin showed me all of his rod setups stored in his boat.

This included some baitcasters…

Now, I had never used a baitcaster before, although I had wanted to. I have just stayed clear of them under the assumption that they are very difficult and technical to use. Believing that I was not skilled enough at fishing, I felt intimidated. It seemed a choice for the more knowledgeable, professional anglers. But, after Rhonda’s cousin gave me a brief 5-minute introduction to the workings of his Shimano baitcaster set-up, I felt confident that I could manage it just fine.

Baitcaster Conundrum

Rhonda came down to the boat to meet us with her gear. She placed it in a little plastic fishing boat nearby that had seemed to suddenly appear. “What? We aren’t taking this boat, the new one?” I asked. Rhonda laughed, “No, we can’t drive my cousin’s new boat, only he drives that!”

Rhonda, Lisa, and I started loading up the little boat with all of our gear. It was a tight space for the three of us, but we didn’t care, we were happy to be heading out on the water to fish!

The three of us climbed into the little plastic bass boat that had just been dragged down from the garage…

As we all climbed in, Rhonda said, “Lisa can sit up front on a chair, I’ll sit in the middle on the milk crate, and Sheryl, you can be on the chair in the back and operate the trolling motor. ”

“But, I have no clue how to use a trolling motor! I’ve never done that before!” I said, feeling a little worried. “It’s easy! I’ll show you!” replied Rhonda. “Okay then, sure, I’ll give it a try!”

My eagerness to learn another new fishing skill overrode my initial concerns.

Rhonda gave me a quick 1-minute tutorial on the workings of the trolling motor and then off we went! Well, sort of, but not really. I just couldn’t pick up on operating the motor correctly right off the bat. It was new to me, there were things I still didn’t know, and to top it off, it was like I had to think backwards in order to steer in the direction I wanted to go. We went in circles at first, then we went into the lily pads, and then we started going straight towards the land we had just launched from. “Watch out!” Rhonda yelled. “Watch out! I’ve got this!” She jumped onto my lap, grabbed the trolling motor, and off we ‘sped’ into open water!

Rhonda jumped into my lap and grabbed the motor

Rhonda’s cousin and friends were yelling from shore, and they had worried looks on their faces, but we did have this!! I got better at using the trolling motor and we stayed out fishing past sunset, just sitting in the boat casting and talking about all kinds of things. We trolled back slowly in the dark with my headlamp guiding us. Rhonda operated the motor of course, as I wasn’t quite ready to navigate the boat in the dark! There were definitely looks of relief from the others when we arrived safely back to shore that evening.

Part 3.

Sunken gear.

The day after that fishing excursion, I was dead set that I was getting a bait caster setup. What has been my hesitation this whole time anyway? Rhonda’s cousin had made it look very doable the day before. And he had that nice Shimano setup that he recommended getting. I love Shimano, my offshore and deep-sea fishing rods are Shimano. Not only are they rugged and feel amazing, but let’s face it, I am also a girl, and the name sounds so enticing…S H I M A N O! But, I am not one to quickly spend a good sum of money without doing some research first, so that morning that’s what I did.

I was feeling impatient though. Typically I would have ordered online through Tackle Warehouse or Tackle Direct. But, I wanted to play NOW!

I checked to see what the local Bass Pro Shop and Dick’s Sporting Goods had in stock. There were only two different baitcasting combos available for pick up within my price range, and I settled on the same Shimano Caius that Rhonda’s cousin had recommended. After reading many reviews that it is a well-made setup for someone just getting into a bait caster, I decided it was the one for me.

The thing that confused me, is do I get a right or left-handed retrieve? Again, I did some research and found that that topic has enough debatable information for a blog post all on its own (see here). I decided on a left hand retrieve as I would use on a spinning reel.

And, here is where things start going wrong again, and entirely my own fault, another overlook caused by my excitement. I had called the Dick’s nearby to make sure they had the model I was looking for in stock. They did. I ran in grabbed it, brought it home, and before I pulled off the tags I realized it was a right hand retrieve, not the left I had wanted. Frustration level growing….they had said it was right-handed….but then again, I didn’t double-check. Ok, minor set back, the Dick’s in next town over has the one I want in stock. I’ll run over and exchange it.

The salesman, I recognized him. We had met on the online dating site ‘OK Cupid’ several years ago. Awkward.

No, I’m serious, these are the situations we deal with these days. and I have always found it unenjoyable to run into someone I had met online, that later I had decided not to date. Being a woman shopping alone in a fishing department often has its own insecurities to begin with, and this was just another layer added to this rod buying saga. I felt relieved when he didn’t seem to recognize me from our past online exchanges. He was very nice, funny, talkative, a great salesman, and somewhat flirty. Sweet, but, “just please give me that rod now, I need to go home and learn this thing before it gets dark!!!

I drove off laughing to myself, “And maybe this is why I’m single, my prorities!”

Leaving Dick’s Sporting Goods

By the time I got the rod home and all set up, it was too late to hit the river. I fell asleep anticipating the next morning.

In the morning I set out in my kayak with two rod setups, one for throwing plastic baits, and one for hard lures….my new Shimano baitcaster. In my defense, sitting low in a kayak on a somewhat narrow river is probably not the best place to learn how to use a baitcaster. But, I was doing very well, really, I was! I had a few minor backlashes, but none of the rat’s nests I had anticipated. But then, the unexpected came.

I made a sloppy cast with my other love, my Daiwa set up with the plastic worm.

On my backcast, I hooked the Shimano baitcaster that was in the rod holder behind me and threw her into the river.

What???? No, Oh no, OH NO, OH NO, OH NO!!!! I had to save my new ruby red colored beauty. On top of it all, to be honest, I was feeling very much aware of all the coffee and water I had partaken in earlier. Everything felt really, fully, extremely rushed, and uncomfortable at the moment. In fact, that last fatal cast was made hastily as I was approaching some brush to relieve myself. As a side note, finding a place on the water to ‘squat’ as a woman is challenging to say the least (see here), and that had been at the forefront of my mind…’ location location location’… But, now that problem was taking a back seat. One problem at a time and my brand new rod and reel had become my priority.

I needed to save my rod before it was lost for good. I was trying to keep my kayak above it and use my paddle as an extraction tool to lift it up from the bottom of the river. But, the current kept pushing me away or I would get my paddle stuck in the overhanging branches of a tree.

The submerged, red graphite rod was catching the sunlight from above and it glinted on and off under the river’s current like a beacon of warning.

I had to act quickly! I would see it and try to dip my paddle down to hook it, but then its image would be lost in reflections of the sky or relocated by the current of the river. It seemed my new rod had actually hooked under a log down there, but how deep was this water anyway? It looked about 3′ from above, but when I dipped my paddle in to gauge it, it said different, almost 6 feet maybe?

I circled around and around above my sunken rod, but the current and reflections played games with me.

This place, this surface, this looking glass, Where Water Meets Air, is the ultimate blue ribbon illusionist. Things get lost and then re-shaped here.

My mind, while creating strategies for a dry retrieval, was also picturing how I could successfully dive underwater and retrieve my gem if need be. The challenges this posed circled around in my head.

One, I wear contact lenses and wouldn’t be able to keep my eyes open underwater. The thought of blindly groping through the muck and silt and logs was not appealing.

Two, I was wearing my Grundens rubber boots, and they would have to come off or fill up with water and sink me. It wasn’t super warm out, certainly not barefoot weather.

Three, I just did not want to climb out of my kayak and up onto the muddy root twisted riverbank…and then push my head and body 6 feet down into the river water where things were that I wasn’t used to being beside.

My Grundens

Oh Man! How do these things happen to me???

I poked my paddle down once again, and this time I managed to lever the tip of the rod up to the surface and then pull the rod out to safety.

The reel felt ‘grainy” after that for a while, but I washed it down when I returned home. I was happy that I had splurged for the insurance that the salesman had suggested I get for it though I certainly hadn’t thought I’d be needing the coverage for it so soon! But, the reel turned out to be fine, and I have been enjoying the bait caster set up since then, and have fallen in love with its workings!

In conclusion…

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