August 2, 2009 in Outdoors

Fishing follies make him butt of jokes on the water

Mark Henckel Billings Gazette
 
Courtesy of Mark Henckel photo

A walleye hangs unceremoniously from the seat of Mark Henckel’s pants – certainly the catch of the day.
(Full-size photo)

Yes, that’s my butt in the photo. And yes, that’s a fishing lure hooked to both the back of my shirt and the seat of my pants. And yes, that’s a walleye dangling there from the lure.

It happened recently on Montana’s Tongue River Reservoir. My son Matt and I were trolling Shad Raps in search of crappies, walleyes and anything else with fins that was willing to bite.

As we trolled along a point, we hit a double on walleyes. Matt had one on the end of his line on one side of the boat. I had one on my lure on the other side. Both looked to be nice fish, but neither was huge, and we both headed to the back of the boat to fight the fish in.

My walleye got to the boat first and it was small enough that I simply swung it aboard, rather than using the net. As I turned around to steer the boat away from impending disaster as it headed toward the brushy bank, Matt swung his walleye aboard.

Matt’s flying walleye hit me square in the butt – and it stuck. Luckily, the hooks remained only in the fabric as the fish flopped around.

As I steered the boat toward more friendly waters, Matt was at work with fishing pliers, first unhooking the fish and then removing the fish hooks from my clothing.

We both wondered how I could have gotten the hooks out of there had he not been aboard. Would I have stripped to my undies and hoped no other boaters came past, lest they glance at me and be turned into pillars of salt? There are beautiful bodies to be exposed on the waters of Montana. Mine is not one of them.

Things like this just seem to happen when you’re in the outdoors. You wind up with klutzy moments and assorted miscues along the way.

One of my most remembered incidents – at least it was remembered by the 135 other boats with 270 other fishermen who remind me of it every time they see me – was when I forgot to put the plug in the boat at the start of the Hell Creek Walleye Tournament some years ago.

There I sat, out in the bay, with the boat getting lower, and lower, and lower in the water, slowly going down before I realized something was wrong. Matt was coming back from parking the truck as I got the motor started and heavily steamed toward shore. I ran the boat bow right up on the bank, then Matt waded in and put in the boat plug.

Another time, I was self-launching, and had a friend, John Maetzold, hold one end of the bow rope on the dock. But I forgot to attach the other end of the rope to the boat. I backed the trailer in, the boat floated free and then continued to float on out into the bay as Maetzold held the limp rope and wondered what the heck I was thinking.

It was obvious. I hadn’t been thinking at all. But luckily, Maetzold had his boat there and was able to retrieve my boat and save me from an unwanted swim.

Dropping my fly box into a river and watching umpteen hours of fly tying be swept away by the current quickly downstream – yes, I’ve done that.

Stumbling on slick river rocks and going down in my waders to total immersion in icy waters – yup, I’ve done that, too, any number of times.

I’ve tipped over leech containers in my cooler and watched them wiggle and squirm all around my lunch.

And I’ve had drift boats I was rowing high center on river rocks and I’ve trolled lake boats aground on unseen shallow spots.

I like to think that a lot of fishermen go through these moments of unwitting, sudden disaster. I like to think, too, that it’s a product of really liking to fish and tending to go fishing a lot. Things simply happen.

I certainly hope that it’s not just me who becomes victim to these things. If it is just me, then I guess I’ll have to live with the distinct honor of being the only guy in Montana to ever be hooked in the butt by a walleye.


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