Yes, I know the ice is out on Lake Auburn. Yes, I know you’re excited. Saw you doing cartwheels at the causeway this weekend as you watched the last chunks melt. It was impressive for a man of your size. Please don’t ever do that again.
Interesting things happen when ice-out is imminent. The eyes of perfectly sane men and women begin to gleam with apparent ecstasy. They speak of melting ice with the same kind of passion usually reserved for those waiting for justice to be doled out in a courtroom.
“The ice of Lake Auburn killed my Pa,” I heard one angler seethe. “I hope it burns in hell.”
“That son of a bitch,” said another, as he watched the last floating chunk dissolve into history, “shot my dog and stole my woman.”
Which makes me wonder how the ice managed to survive an entire winter without being knifed or set on fire.
The excitement isn’t the exclusive property of fishermen, but surely they cheer the loudest. For soon, a soul will be able to sit on a rock and fling his bait into the water with dreams of pulling out a whale. Some seek food for the table. Others want a trophy for their wall. Still others don’t care if they catch anything, as long as they can get away from the stress of work or the responsibilities of home.
My, how I envy you, angler. I envy your knowledge of things like what kind of lure a bass will bite on and how last night’s rain will affect the crappie.
You know in what type of weeds a trout does its business and how to pluck a hook from a pickerel’s mouth without losing a finger.
You can tie 10 types of knot with one hand and you even make hip waders look good. You have great hats with various hooks in them and fantastic stories that may or may not be true.
I admire the culture of fishing and covet the kind of Zen it inspires. And yet you will never find me at the side of a lake with a can of worms and a head full of dreams. Because, my friends, you will never meet a person who is so god-awful bad at the sport itself.
I know what you’re going to say: “You don’t have to be good at fishing to enjoy it.” That’s what everybody says. But I tell you, I am lousy at fishing and if you don’t believe me, you can ask my last fishing companion.
We call him One-Eyed Louis and have ever since the incident.
I once cast into a tree and fell out of that tree when a hive of bees attacked while I was trying to retrieve my hook.
I once flung my entire rod into the river because I had it in my head that a proper cast should look like a baseball swing.
I once imperiled the lives of an old sea salt, a small-town police chief and an oceanographer because I didn’t want to close the beaches on the Fourth of July.
That last one might have been from a major motion picture, now that I think of it. But you get my meaning. It’s not just that I don’t know jack about bait or fish psychology. It’s that any time I try to fish, bad things happen to good people. There are errant casts, overturned boats and the occasional maiming (they say One-Eyed Louis got to drinking full time after the incident).
When I get a rod in my hand, about the only living things that are not in danger are the fish. They love it when I fish. They will crowd around in the water beneath me because they know that is the safest spot in the whole lake. They are safe and they get up-close seats on the best fish comedy since that movie with Don Knotts.
I tell you, I have no aptitude for fishing, the way I have no aptitude for golf, dancing or filling out my time sheet at work. And it’s a great disappointment to my wife, her family and many of my closest friends who, for one reason or another, seem really interested in getting me out to the center of a lake.
Which is probably something I should be concerned about. Seriously, why do they have cinderblocks and chains around when they try to get me out in a boat?
My point is, I can’t fish and so I always become melancholy when the time for ice-out comes along. What the hell good is Lake Auburn if you don’t fish? You can’t swim in it, park next to it at night, speak of it in public or even think about it at certain times of year (it’s all right there on those ominous signs next to the lake warning of huge penalties and possible banishment for violators).
So, yes. The ice is gone and I understand your anticipation of great times and great lies. Think about me while you’re out there. Think about me but don’t invite me along. You know how the old proverb goes:
Give LaFlamme a fish, he’ll eat for a day.
Teach LaFlamme to fish, someone will lose an eye.
Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. You can bait him at [email protected]