The one that didn’t get away

By Scott Best
Like many people, I love having new experiences and learning new things. I had the opportunity to do just that back in June. I was working as an editorial intern at Pegasus Publications for Steven Wintemute. Steven is also the editor in chief for Hooked magazine, Travel Manitoba fishing ambassador, all around good guy and, this one’s pretty important, an avid fisherman.

One day, Steven was talking excitedly about what it was like to be out on the water and searching for that big catch. Somewhat intrigued, I said, “You know, I’ve never been fishing.” It was as if I had flipped a switch. Before long, we were setting a date to go catch some catfish, and Steven was filling me in on what to expect.

“Catfish are strong, but I’m going to tell you exactly how to hold your fish. You’ll want to keep your hands away from its mouth ‘cause catfish bite. They can crush your finger.”

Thanks for the warning, Steve.
On a Monday evening in mid-June, following my last day of work with Pegasus Publications, we headed out to Selkirk to meet Todd “The Rock ’n’ Roll Fisherman” Longley, owner and operator of City Cats Guiding Service. We took Todd’s boat out on the Red River to a spot well known as a haven for catfish. I am blind, so the guys showed me (with a lot of detail and patience) how to hold the rod, how to entice the fish, and what to do when I got a bite on my hook.

I get a strike
I knew Steve and Todd were expert anglers, so I wasn’t surprised when my rod buckled after being in the water for roughly half an hour. I was really surprised at how big the fish was! It was a 36-inch, 30-pound channel catfish and it felt that big!

It was a struggle trying to reel it in. “Pull back, now reel in,” they would say. This was  the first time I had ever held a fishing rod, so it took some practice to get the movements right. But it was well worth it. When the guys asked me to hold the fish for pictures, it felt pretty slimy, sort of like a wet boulder but much softer. I was nervous, and couldn’t wait to put the fish down (I’m not one for lifting things), but I was also incredibly happy. I had caught my first fish!

Over the next couple of hours, we caught three or four more fish between us. I found it much easier to reel in and hold my other fish, mostly because they weren’t quite so big. One of them even made a type of grunting sound. “It’s talking,” Steven said, but I didn’t really know whether to believe him. Aside from catfishing, we chatted about life and work, laughed a lot and enjoyed some Hungarian sausage Todd had brought with him.

Scott – blind – steers the boat.

As we were getting ready to drive back to the launch, Steve asked me if I wanted to drive the boat. Todd was a little less enthusiastic, but rightfully so. It was his boat. Nevertheless, I jumped into the driver’s seat and they oriented me to the controls. I thought they would just have me work the throttle and they would steer, but I was wrong.

“Left, to the left, more to the left,” they would say.

Steven and Todd both kept their cool and seemed to relax more and more as our trip progressed. They both seemed a little frightened when we were about 40 yards from shore and I needed to turn the wheel a little more forcefully. But with their help, I managed to steer the boat back on course. When the wind picked up, I let Todd take over but I’d had my fun. Driving the boat was almost more exciting than catching fish.

When I told my friends the guys were taking me fishing, many of them said, “Fishing is pretty boring.” But they were wrong. I was lucky enough to be with two expert anglers who knew where the hot spots were, and that evening I learned there’s a whole lot more to fishing then catching fish. It’s also about the fun, the laughter and the company – the whole experience. Would I do it again…in a blink of an eye!

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