Fishing the Great Outdoors
by Allen Delaney
I was seated at the bar in mid debate about who owned the best fishing boat at the marina.
Suddenly such an uneasy hush fell over the barroom that you could hear a beer being poured. We all turned to the lady visitor and, practically in unison, said, “What did you call us?” She and her husband became very nervous.
“Outdoorsmen?” she gulped.
Danny shot back, “There are fishermen and outdoorsmen. We are not outdoorsmen. We’re fishermen.”
The woman’s husband responded, “What’s the difference? You have to be outdoors to fish.”
We looked at one another for an explanation but instead came up with a bunch of errs and ummms. Finally, I said I’d explain with a story.
I lifted my glass, took a sip, and began:
During my college years, I learned a great deal about fishing the Potomac River and little else. My roommate, Herb Fitzhugh, and I would trek to Carderock in the wee hours seeking largemouth bass and catfish. We would hike to remote locations along the river’s banks to get away from the crowds and always come home with very plump fish. However, getting to those locations took a little effort.
While scaling rocks to return to the car after a successful morning, we heard a voice yell out, “Stay where you are! Help is on the way!” Thinking that a kayaker or hiker was is in trouble, I looked down 50 feet or so to the river.
It turned out to be us.
At the top of the cliff we were greeted by three young hikers. They scolded us for attempting such an ascent and warned that park rangers were on their way to extract us.
Herb and I chuckled. Herb said, “Hell, that was the easy part. Try going down that cliff in the dark.”
“You went down that rock face in the dark?” one hiker echoed.
“Sure.” Herb answered. “It’s easier if you lower your cooler first.” He unfastened the cord he had tied around his belt loop and pulled up our cooler full of fish.
“You idiots could have been killed! What would you have done if you had been seriously injured?” asked another hiker. “That’s why we brought the cooler.” I told him. Just then the park helicopter whizzed by.
We gave the pilot a thumbs up, and he responded the same. After all, we’d been waving at him all morning.
The three young hikers explained the equipment we’d need to go fishing in that spot again. They showed Herb and me their ropes, helmets, fasteners, fiberglass hiking poles, gloves, hiking socks and above all, their footwear.
“I can’t believe you guys scaled that cliff wearing those!” one young man said, pointing at our feet. Herb looked down at his worn-out sneakers with his right little toe poking out of the side as I examined my two-toned boat shoes, one white and one blue.
“But these are our fishing shoes,” I told the guy. He threw his hands up in disgust.
As we neared the car, Herb said, “ I think those guys were jealous that we made that climb without all that expensive, fancy gear.”
“Maybe,” I pondered. “We like to fish and they like to climb rocks. They came prepared for what they do, and we came prepared for what we do. We never put a lot of thought into how we get to our fishing spot; we just want to get there.”
“However,” I continued, “perhaps we should think a little more about safety.” Herb smiled. “You’re right,” he said. “Next time I’ll bring a stronger rope for the cooler.”
And that, I told the stranger, is the difference between us fishermen and those outdoorsmen.