May 22, 2003
by Chris Feeney
Why is it that the most painful lessons are the most difficult to learn? Whacking your little brother earned you a smack but you repeated the act often enough despite the painful penalty. Well this weekend I made another trip with the family fishers and believe it or not they once again forgot that I always get the final word, and its in print and even available on the Internet.
After last year's trip to Michigan chasing salmon I made these family members pay for their harsh comments to me by writing my outdoor column with even harsher words about their fishing performances. All I heard the next few weeks were complaints. How could I do such a thing to my family members? How could I publish such names as Dead-Fish David and Back-Fin Brent? (I won't mention The One-Fish Wonder since Michael wasn't able to join us on this excursion.) It's as easy as a third grade excuse - they started it. I'm not going to mention the nickname they spouted out for me to start the whole name-calling incident.
Anyway, after nearly a year of ribbing from the rest of the family one might think my fishing partners would have learned their lesson. Besides it looked pretty promising for me to avoid any derogative pseudonyms on this adventure. There I stood on my first ever trout fishing trip. I was casting a brand-new fly rod and reel that I had no experience using. And I was hauling in the first rainbow trout of the morning after like two casts, much to the chagrin of my two much more experienced guides.
Unfortunately my beginners luck wore off. I managed to land six or seven decent trout that morning but I was experiencing a pretty long dry spell just before lunch. To make things worse, my fish catching was the only dry spell I had as a sudden rainstorm caught me without a jacket. I must have looked pretty pathetic all sopping wet a dejected about not catching much.
In their defense, the guys never laughed when I tripped and fell as I was walking to shore, at least not that I heard, but then again it's hard to hear underwater. That was their only saving grace because then it happened. It started innocently enough as a phone call to one of the wives to check in. I heard lots of talk of big fish, loads of fun and even some lunch plans. Then out of the blue came the declaration of war as the caller uttered the now famous slam, First-Fish Feeney. He was telling the listener that we were doing so well we hated to break to go eat, well except for First-Fish Feeney, who caught the premiere fish of the morning and hasn't hooked up since.
There must of been some bad flashback as those words slipped out because I caught the author's nervous glance as he hoped the declaration had gone unheard. It was obviously loud enough for my other partner to hear as he unloaded a solid belly laugh in response. Won't they ever learn?
Before the day was over, not only had I capped off my first ever fishing trip to Tanecomo with 12 to 15 nice rainbows caught and released, I had my comeback hand-fed to me as well. It seems that First-Fish Feeney had a leg up on his belittler in the afternoon. Not only did I catch more fish after lunch I had my rebuttal gift wrapped and handed directly to me. It just so happened that my assailant was preparing to leave. He took a moment to fish a few final casts there in my old spot as I stood on shore getting the gear ready to move. As fortune would have it the poor man hooked into a fish. It was painful to watch as I was loosing all my luster as the big guy was going to close out with a bang. He even had me getting the camera ready because the fish was putting up such a fight. I think he could have won an Academy Award as he fought the fish with such drama and suspense. But the victors smile quickly sank away as the once proud fisherman netted about a two-pound sucker-fish. That's right he made all that to-do about a common river fish, a drum. Barely had the smile faded than the corners of my mouth turned up and before I could even stop and think about what I was saying I congratulated good old Carpy Kutzner. The other guy caught more fish than me, morning, noon and night so I will simply tip my hat to him. Besides I was in such awe that Traumatized Trousers could do any speaking beyond those high-pitched squeaks he uttered when he stepped into a spot that was just a little too deep allowing the frigid 42-degree water to spill over the top of his waders and soak his pants.