Volume 14, Issue 29 ~ July 20 - July 26, 2006


Music to Fish By

by Pat Piper

There was a rare moment of silence around the bar at Happy Harbor. Three guys and a lady with a silver ring through her nose were doing the usual: drinking beers, smoking cigarettes, telling an occasional off-color joke (and probably telling some lies but the stories were so good the truth wasn’t important). Then, for a reason only Dr. Phil can explain (whether he knows the answer or not), it all just stopped.

Sensing the need for a new topic, I took a pull from the Rolling Rock and asked, “Do fish like music?”

Remember that silence? All of a sudden I missed it because the mixture of sudden quiet and the accompanying stares was uncomfortable. Sometimes, there’s a gut feeling that says it’s time to leave. And it always shows up after you realize you shouldn’t have said something in the first place.

I left a dollar tip and stood up. The beer was half gone but, well, it was time to listen to the gut feeling and not economics.

“Of course,” came a voice from one of the corners. It was a guy I hadn’t noticed over by the tables. “I play Consecration of the House Overture whenever I’m at the mouth of the Choptank and I always land a few stripers.”

I sat back down. Truth is an attractive thing when you have a few moments to kill.

Another silence fell as the room took this in. I could actually see the wheels turning, and it was nice to have not been the cause of it this time. In fact the moment was so good, I ordered another beer.

“Is that a Willie Nelson song?” asked the lady with the metal on her face. It figured.

“Beethoven did it,” said the man next to her.

“Rockfish like Beethoven?” I asked.

“I tried Pink Floyd and didn’t get a bite. I was jigging, too. Nothing.” The man in the corner was speaking.

“You’re supposed to be quiet. That’s what I was taught. Fish hear or they feel the vibrations from sound. No sound and they don’t know you’re there.” This proclamation came from some guy wearing a Redskins baseball cap backward and smoking a Camel, no filter.

“Yeah?” The man at the end was staring at the guy. “Then why do I only catch fish when I play Consecration of the House full blast?” This was terrific. I could see Court TV covering the story of a knock-down brawl in a bar with a bunch of people who were arguing about whether fish listen to music. A panel of experts would start arguing for and against a change of venue. Bill O’Reilly would start barking about the decline of civilization in between selling his premium subscriptions, and Katie Couric would use it as the last story on her inaugural CBS News broadcast. These guys would get book deals, the Coen Brothers would make it into a movie and — well I was getting ahead of myself.

“Well, then, if they like one kind of music, does that mean they don’t like another kind?” The question came from a bearded fellow in a denim jacket who, until this moment, had been quiet. He was sitting at a table.

I kept thinking how I was going to answer the question about what I did today? Oh, just the usual discussion about Mozart, Vince Gill, Artie Shaw and rockfish. No real conclusions yet. Is there a federal grant to study this stuff?

“It’s obvious they don’t like Pink Floyd, “ said the Beethoven fan.

I listened while thinking, Oh boy, here we go.

“We’re sittin’ here talking about fish,” the Redskins fan said, obviously ready to discuss whether Chris Clemons will be a starter.

“We’re always talking about fish,” the lady with the metal in her face yelled back. “Music, lures, slack tide or not, it’s all the same thing.”

Once again, silence around the bar. Truth does that, even if the topic is fishing.

In his pursuit of truth, long-time reflector Pat Piper listens to stories around the Chesapeake Bay instead of watching television talk shows.

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