One of the members of our group, a local Southern Marylander by birth, had inherited an old oyster boat from a deceased relative and we helped him fix it up and make it perfect for a bunch of fellows to use for fishing. It was on this boat on a beautiful late Friday afternoon when we departed from a small marina on the Patuxent River, heading for the open Chesapeake around the bend off the Pax River Naval Air Station. It was beautiful, a slight easterly breeze and a soft roll to the water as we put our lines overboard and began fishing. Two hours later there was nothing to show for it, so we took a break, all but the designated driver had a couple of colds ones with a sandwich, and then decided to try again. On this night we were also celebrating the birthday of my closest neighbor, Jerry and he was dying to try out the new rod and spinner reel that his wife gave him for his birthday. It was a beaut, quite expensive, but as we started fishing Jerry was still finishing his sandwich. Unfortunately, he left the rod standing against the gunwale and leaning against the frame of the covered portion of the forward deck. As I walked by it after re-baiting, my foot hit the rod and it immediately went over the side.
Jerry was apoplectic and I apologized, but then I said, "Don't worry I'll fish for it. I'm a master fisherman, you'll see."
My first cast was reeled in empty but on the second cast I had a strike, pulling back on the jerking nibble on the line to set the hook. I started reeling in and found that something wss dragging through the water along with the moving fish. Two nice eating sized fish broke the water, followed by, you might have guessed it, Jerry's rod and reel. The third and larger hook on the rig was snug against the the top of the reel and the rod. It was going nowhere. We brought it in, washed the seaweed that was entangled from the bottom and a little fresh water when he got home would make it as good as new.
Jerry started cheering and slapping me on the back like a kid who hit a home run and I basked in the limelight, claiming that I just had the magic while my mind wondered how in the world did I do it. Well, we fished for a few more hours with no other problems and that road and reel must have been an omen. For the first time all season, we took home more fish than we had ever done. We bet each other that no one would ever believe the story when we got home.
The ladies still had their card game underway at Jerry's house when we arrived. We decided to all go inside and brag about the great catch and they told me to tell them the story of my three way catch. When I did so, they just laughed saying that could never happen but Jerry insisted and finally his wife, a librarian by training, accepted the claim. And the story spread to places much farther away than I could ever imagine.
Fast forward three years. I was visiting back in Virginia with my in-laws and was fishing out on the Buckroe Beach pier on a lazy Saturday afternoon. One thing great about fishing on a pier, you meet all different kinds of people and fisherman love to chat. I was fishing next to a man from California who was visiting his kids in Hampton. His name was Joe and he was from Santa Monica. In our conversation he asked me where I lived and I told him my name was Jim, I lived near the Chesapeake Bay in Southern Maryland and that I worked for the Navy there. His eyes perked up and he said he wanted to ask me a question. I told him I would answer it if I could.
He began, "Jim, about six months ago I was fishing on the Santa Monica pier and a man from Maryland told me the story of a man catching a fishing pole with two fish on the line in the Chesapeake Bay near the mouth of the Patuxent River. Since you live there, can you tell me if you've ever heard this story and how could it be true?"
Well, I started laughing and I knew that confused Joe, but once I controlled myself I looked him in the eye and said, "Yes, Joe I've heard the story and it is indeed true with witnesses."
He dug a little deeper asking, "How is that possible."
I continued by saying, "Joe, I'm the guy who caught the rod, reel and fish and let me fill you in on, as Paul Harvey says, "the rest of the story."
When I finished, we shared a long laugh, went inside for a cold one and then returned to a good late afternoon of fishing. Just like before, we had a great fishing day. Now I never saw or heard from Joe after that day but I'll bet my little story went the rounds somewhere in Sunny California and who knows where in between. And the moral of the story is: Yes, fishermen tell some mighty tall tales, but every now and then one of them turns out to be true. It was a time that I'll never forget and I know that can't be duplicated and as for my friend Jerry who is now no longer with us to fish, I'm sure there is a golden fishing ground for him to go after the big ones in heaven above as well.