Very rarely did we fish after dark; after all, there was a campfire to look forward to, and a full evening of agitation, degradation, exaggeration, distortion, prevarication, some actual information, and lots of flatus.
When guys did fish at night, they usually went “down to the willows,” where they could tie up to a submerged tree, flink worms with light split shots, and settle down for quiet conversation and, maybe, a beer or five (well, coffee, also). The willows at night sometimes produced a walleye or two but more often catfish, channel or bullhead. On a lark, or perhaps as a favor to others, Puff talked Gasser into going out one night to work the willows. With Colemans glaring and lines dangling, they slipped off Stough’s Point into the darkness of Tub Run Hollow headed for the woods, promising to be back by morning. The campfire carried on normally (though at controlled volume levels with Gasser safely floating about a half-mile or so away). The night ended with the bear back in his truck and the fire smothering itself efficiently with no one watching.
Early rising was part of the patterns on our trips. Everyone was up and semi-conscious by 7 am, some earlier. The first morning’s breakfast was a group affair with a “menu” of eggs, bacon, orange juice, cereals of several types, and a glass of “metamucil” for certain people. Mostly, EZ Ed and Stoner did the cooking. Everyone else supplied the materials and the appetites.
On this morning, Puff made the announcement that a special treat was up for today – fresh catfish and eggs. Turns out that they had good luck the night before and had brought home a “big” bullhead; we expressed our delight and surprise by complimenting the pair with a shower of “all rights” and “good jobs” and a single “no @&^$#%#$@ way” from Muskie. Gass explained they he indeed has taken a big bullhead; it “went four and a half pounds, about 18 inches! Stoner weighed it.” There would plenty for everybody. The rest of us saw only the skinned and filleted meat in mounds near the skillet. Who were we to question their veracity? When good eating is imminent, the particularity of truth fades in importance.
After one of the heartiest and tastiest breakfasts in our history, we sat around a bit and listened to an inspired and fully detailed narrative on the capture. As the story played out, we were greeted by one of the park rangers who casually checked on campers every once in a while. We apologized for not being able to offer him some of the fine cuisine that had disappeared minutes earlier. He asked us what we had eaten so enthusiastically for breakfast. He got a slightly abridged version of the capture narration with an emphasis on the size of the fish. A big smile broke on his face as he said, “well, men, congratulations. You just ate the state record for a bullhead. Too bad I didn’t check on you before breakfast, we could have done up the paperwork and gotten a picture.”
Muskie incredulously muttered “no @&^$#%#$@ way.” We all laughed mightily.