Cranberry Lake, NY
09.06.2009 - 09.11.2009
Home again. But not for long. Well sort of, you see, I came back in a flash and then was gone… again. Like a fart in the wind.
But this time I had accomplices. I had a direct mission. I was goin’ fishin’.
At 3:00am dad woke me up. The truck and boat were stuffed to the gills. We made one quick stop to pick up my Uncle Don and then were officially on the road. It was 3:30am.
This was the annual ‘Brothers’ fishing trip. My dad and his older brothers have been setting aside a week in September for the past eight years to fish in upstate New York, to fish Cranberry Lake. Maybe it was their way of welcoming me back to the states, maybe it was their way to ease the pain of coming up fishless in my journey or maybe it was a chance to pluck at my liberal thoughts – whatever the case, I was happy to be apart and eager to test the waters.
My Uncle Ed was hosting us in his newly acquired summer home on the lake. It proved to be the perfect setting for an early autumn fishing trip. We settled in fast and fell asleep faster. Day 1 included a drawn out nine hour drive, 550 or so miles, with a small stop-off (four hours) at a lake on the way (Lake Bonaparte). My fish counter totaled 0.
Up and at’em. We were on the water by 7:30am and had a fish in the boat by 8:00am. The morning was crisp, brisk and clear. We were on the shady side of Buck Island, a supposed hot-bed for smallmouth bass. I was slinging a yellow worm up against the woody and rock slated shore, jigging it back through the dark water in anticipation. Bam! It was hit and run. I had a ‘smallie’ on the line.
I never truly understood the excitement or competitiveness in fishing. From a far, it can seem pretty boring, repetitive, frustrating and totally up to chance. But when you flip a well marked cast into cover, feel the hit, set the hook and wrangle a fighting fish back to the boat successfully (meaning actually IN the boat) – the thrill is tough to beat. Man v. Nature. Me against the fish. So when I pulled in my first fish early on that second morning, it all made sense. Grinning from ear to ear, I let out a “Whooooooo!” that shattered the calmness of the day. Game on. Fishing was fun!
The buzz wore off. I hit a slump, a big slump. As my dad and my uncles steadily caught fish, I was left drowning worms. By the end of three days, my fish counter totaled 1.
It was getting to me. Eight to ten hours a day out on a peaceful lake as the fall colors start to pop amongst the pines can only hold its splendor for so long. I was running out of patience, but in the meantime, I was part of a huge catch – the trusty sidekick with a net.
“I think I snagged a log.” My dad’s pole was completely bent over as he tried to relieve the hook from the source. Maybe a section of tree, maybe an old mud-filled boot or maybe the largest and gnarliest fresh-water dragon-fish I’d ever seen. Pops had hooked a northern pike. It was a monster, not just in size, but in looks as well. I was ecstatic. We had to get this baby in the boat! I fumbled around for the net, extended it to full reach and then as the monster came top-side, swooped it up like a seasoned veteran. But this guy was almost too big for the net and with one last fight, flipped out of the net and onto the deck of the boat. The team work had paid off. Holy S%&#! What a rush!
Day 4 during breakfast, dad was trying to feel out my intentions.
“So… taking a break today? Maybe a hike through the hills?”
“Are you kidding me!? My pride is on the line here! I’m fishing!”
For the next two days, obnoxious and jubilant “Whooooo’s!” were constantly heard throughout the lake. I found a groove. I found my technique. I found the fish. Back and forth, my dad and I reeled in one smallmouth after another (mixing in a largemouth here and there). My pride, and my sanity, had been saved.
This time together was as traditional a male bonding experience as one could draw up. I learned a lot about fishing. I enjoyed our evening fire-side chats. I ate a lot, a lot. I appreciated the beauty of nature and I got to spend quality father-son time with my dad, fishing. And as long as I can block out the big one that got away on our last day – the fish to end all fishing trips (or at least this trip, for me) – I will look back at those five days with a smile, both for what it meant and in anticipation of the next trip. Uncle Don, Uncle Ed, dad… thanks for inviting me.