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Fish Schtick – Gone Astray Podcast

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station description Places People and Passions
Gone Astray - Russell Johnson
Duration: 05:17
I am not Ahab. No huge aquatic creature has chomped off my leg. I am not Hemingway or sad Santiago. I have never battled a giant marlin. My quest for a trophy fish has never been tragic or heroic. But, I have always dreamed of landing a whopper.





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I am not Ahab. No huge aquatic creature has chomped off my leg. I am not Hemingway or sad Santiago. I have never battled a giant marlin. My quest for a trophy fish has never been tragic or heroic. But, I have always dreamed of landing a whopper.





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My Old Fishin’ Hole, Northern Minnesota ©2021 Russell Johnson



I wax nostalgic for the fishing days of my youth: threading a worm on a hook, peeling sunburned skin off my arm, dipping my feet in the water and feeling minnows nibbling at my toes. Dismayed, though, as I look back, at my lack of empathy for the poor creatures that swallowed my bait. At least I ate most of those I caught and cleaned. Yes, I learned how to heartlessly gut and filet a fish, usually at night in a little shed while fireflies flashed and mosquitoes needled me like pop-up ads. Last time I slit open a fish was when I was in my twenties. I turned my head, gagged and couldn’t continue.



I remember the old men, along with my dad (who was younger than I am now), gathering at the bait shop to debate feeding habits, pond gestalt and angling strategies. Dag nabbit, swore dad’s old friend Ernie in his Walter Brennan voice, interrupting almost every comment.



The Lazy Ike



My dad’s favorite fishing lure was a red and white Lazy Ike. The new versions of this 1940s high tech substitute for the live minnow are made of plastic, but you can still find a few gnawed-on wooden ones on E-Bay. I remember the Hula Popper, a chubby open-mouthed water dancer shaking what looked like a grass skirt. The Rappala reminded me of a WWII submarine in a Bogart movie as did the Tiny Torpedo. The Dardevle Spinnie was proudly endorsed by Old Scratch himself, who was embossed on it. The Uncle Josh Pork Frog, which came in a bottle of brine that leaked all over my dad’s tackle box, was a green hunk of jerky. I resisted the temptation to bite into it. It was advertised as being irresistible to big mouthed bass. I envision a California version: a slice of sashimi brined in sake, maybe accompanied by ikura, which I once knew only as salmon egg fish bait.



I took up fly fishing. I had a small collection of Woolly Buggers, the basic little black dress of fly fishing, and a few others like the Zonker, with its sleekly coiffed white hair, like that of a groomed Afghan Hound with a hook instead of legs. Its heavy under-body caused it to sink to the depths to tempt Northern Pike,
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