Hooked on Fishing: Misadventure in Montana

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Commentator Dick George remembers a recent fishing expedition that didn't turn out quite like he planned. George is a communications executive who lives in Baldwin, Md. He has fished six times since his trip to Montana and has caught things other than himself.


Commentator Dick George prefers to pass his time with more traditionally American pursuits. He remembers a recent fishing expedition in Montana that didn't turn out quite as he planned.

DICK GEORGE reporting:

Ever since I read my first Field and Stream magazine as a kid, I have had the dream. It goes like this. I travel to some remote outdoorsy location, hike up into the remote mountains to a remote lake that is just bursting with ravenously hungry fish that have never seen people and therefore can be easily fooled, even by a fisherman like me.

I catch fish after fish until my arms are tired while a photographer snaps my picture. I then become next month's cover boy, seen skillfully playing a large trout under a headline that reads Fly-fisherman Gone Wild.

This is America. Dreams can come true. And so I found myself on a mountain trail in Montana, hiking for hours up, up and then up some more until the trail opened onto a meadow containing a pristine mountain lake. I could see trout dappling the surface as they fed while wildflowers danced in the afternoon air. Everywhere you looked was screensaver material.

I attached my favorite imitation hopper to the line and began my back cast. When enough line was flowing through the air above me, I leaned back for one more final thrust to lay my offering almost literally into the mouths of hungry trout I could actually see.

It was at this precise moment that a gust of wind blew my line back in my face, ruining my first cast. No matter, I thought, watching a fat 15-incher swim by. I'll just cast again. It was then that I discovered that my imitation hopper was now firmly lodged in the soft flesh on the underside of my upper right arm.

I have caught myself.

No problem. I would just remove it like I remove hooks from fish. Unfortunately, barbs on hooks are designed to prevent precisely what I was trying to do. I felt foolish as I thought about the many fish that have escaped after I've hooked them, a feat that I - a human with a much larger brain -could not duplicate.

And my brain kind of let me down a little, because my next thought was that since the hook was not embedded all that deeply, I could probably just rip it right out. A minor cut on my arm, I figured, was a small price to pay to return to the dream.

So I just grabbed that hopper, grit my teeth and gave it one very hard pull. Do you have any idea how tough human flesh actually is? Tougher than you think. Believe me, I know.

My daughter finally rescued me by using a tool I use to remove hooks from fish to flatten the barb on the hook. It took a while, but once the barb was flat, we backed the hook on out. By then the temperature had dropped, and there was a consensus in my party to head back down the mountain before it got too late.

I managed a few casts with my battered, bloody hopper, and I caught a couple fish, but it wasn't exactly the dream come true.

BLOCK: Commentator Dick George is a communications executive. He lives in Baldwin, Maryland. He says he's fished six times since his trip to Montana and has caught things other than himself.

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