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Kelso: Fishing doesn’t necessarily lead to catching

By John Kelso

You know these guys who say they don’t care if they catch anything when they go fishing?

They’ll tell you they enjoy being in the great outdoors so much that whether they bring home a fish doesn’t matter. That’s not me, folks. I want to land some lunch. So the earth trembles from the trout tremors as I approach the edge of Coyote Creek, about 22 miles from my log cabin in Angel Fire, N.M.

So explain this to me: If you’re not concerned about catching fish, why did you lug that tackle box, filet knife, stringer, Hula Poppers, plastic bobbers, lead sinkers, swivels, extra hooks and your rod and reel out to the boonies? Are you out here for the sheer joy of untangling that bird’s nest in your fishing line that you acquired while inadvertently casting your lure into a bush?

And if you don’t care if you bring home a fish, why did you buy that bait? You fixing to make pets out of those worms? Are you going to teach them to roll over?

Trouble is, on some days I don’t catch any fish at all. Major bummer. Here’s the deal: Fishing and catching are two distinct activities. Fishing’s OK, but catching is preferable. Sadly, last summer here in New Mexico, I didn’t land a single stinkin’ fish.

Which is not a morale booster for a meat fisherman like me. I’ll admit it. I’m in it for the groceries. There are two kinds of fishing: meat and furniture. If you’re catching something to hang on your wall for bragging rights, you’re a furniture fisherman.

But if you’re like me, you’re fishing for an entree. They don’t call them panfish for nothing, right?

The drive out here past woods and pasture is spectacular. The road, barely wide enough for two pickups, winds through the forest like a piece of Christmas ribbon candy. And you don’t need to have your own TV fishing show to catch fish here. The ponds are stocked with rainbow trout. Bubbles — fish burps, one presumes — regularly rise to the surface. (There’s a frog out here who croaks like he weighs 23 pounds).

Still, the first day I fished here, I had one lousy nibble and didn’t even catch a cold. And I’m using nightcrawlers, OK? How can you miss with big, fat worms?

I felt like telling the park ranger, “Listen, I’m from Texas. Would it be OK if I use dynamite?” Meanwhile, a few feet away from me, two little boys, probably 8 and 11, had hauled in at least three trout. They were fishing with two older guys, in their mid-20s, I’d guess. “Grandma’s going to be happy,” one of the older guys told the boys.

I’m glad somebody’s happy, even if it’s somebody else’s grandma.

I become way too jealous of the people fishing next to me when they’re catching fish and I’m not. This is not a healthy attitude. If one of the commandments isn’t thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s trout, it should be.

One of the little kids figured he was catching so many fish that he could afford to ditch one.

“I think I’ll throw this one back,” he said, inspecting his latest catch.

“Give it to me, you ungrateful little Gummy Bear junkie,” I thought to myself.

A couple of minutes later, the little stinker walked over toting a small green water snake — as an offering, I suppose. “Would you like to pet my snake?” he asked.

“Yeah, kid, that’s the reason I got out of bed this morning — so I could pet your freakin’ snake,” I thought, petting the snake anyway.

But I am not a quitter. The next day I went back and landed five trout, three of them big enough to keep.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that I had to clean the darned things.

With that in mind, here’s my rainbow trout recipe:

Gut fish and cut off head. Roll fish in cornmeal. Salt entire fish to taste, including gut cavity. Sprinkle fish inside and out with dill. Squirt a little lemon on fish.

Put olive oil in pan, and fry fish on stove. Eat when done, and watch out for bones. Serve with col’beer.

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