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Only hooking a catch can ruin a guys’ fishing camp

The shout shattered the afternoon serenity: “Guys! I hooked one!”

Amid the groans of the others, McManus tipped his hat off his eyes, raised up to his elbows and spit out the blade of grass he’d been chewing. “Accidents happen. Shake it free.”

The fishing camp rookie cranked his reel. “Did you see it jump? I’ve never hooked such a large trout.”

“Hush,” Sweeney said. “You’re disturbing my nap.”

“Somebody get the net,” the rookie bellowed.

Muldoon glanced at Tully. “Do we have a net?”

“Yep. It’s keeping our drinks from floating down the creek.”

“Good. Didn’t want to come to fish camp unprepared.”

Some minutes later, the rookie sloshed ashore with a wriggling rainbow. “He must be 22 inches, at least.”

“Probably be closer to 32 inches by next week,” Finley muttered. “They always grow in the retelling.”

Buck never opened his eyes. “What lure did you use?”

“A number 20 smokejumper midge dry fly.”

“Never use smokejumper, especially not a 20,” Crabtree snapped. “The fish around here chomp them every time.”

Vern pulled a handful of potato chips from the bag beside his lounge chair. “Wouldn’t have happened had you left your tackle box in the your tent. Or at home. It’s too tempting to hook something otherwise.”

The rookie tucked the trout under his arm. “I thought the goal of fish camp was to, you know, catch fish.”

“Nope,” McManus said. “The goal is to nap, grill steaks, tell lies and do nothing all day.”

Tully nodded. “If you catch a mess of fish, you gotta scale and fillet a mess of fish. No one wants to clean up that mess.”

The rookie eyed his catch. “But we can cook fresh fish over the campfire.”

Crabtree swayed in his hammock. “Got fish sticks in the cooler. Pork ribs, too. We’re good.”

The rookie slumped onto a tree stump, the trout lying across his lap. “Fine. Pass me the fillet knife and I’ll fix this one myself.”

Muldoon glanced at Tully. “We got a fillet knife?”

“Sure. Used it to carve a hunk of wood into this here salmon.”

Muldoon squinted. “Looks like a wood chip to me.”

Tully shrugged. “It’s kind of an impressionistic interpretation of a salmon.”

The rookie sighed. “What’s the point of coming to fish camp if we don’t fish?”

“We come out here to get away from our bosses, wives and kids,” Finley said.

“My wife packed everything for me. A week ahead of time,” Vern said. “She loves fish camp.”

The rookie scratched his head with the trout. “Don’t you love your families?”

McManus tugged his hat back over his eyes. “A little misery reminds you how good you have it. Suffering in tents for a week or two with a bunch of lazy slobs who do nothing useful but scratch, belch and slap mosquitoes makes us appreciate our spouses, jobs and easy chairs more than ever.”

“Then on the way back home,” Finley said, “we stop at Old Joe’s outpost. He loads our empty coolers with fish already caught and filleted.”

Buck yawned. “Reckon one of us oughta cut some wood so we can build a campfire?”

Muldoon glanced at Tully. “We got an ax?”

“Knew we forgot something,” Tully said. “Guess it’s cold beans and weenies tonight.”

“I love fish camp,” McManus said, and drifted back to sleep.

In tribute to outdoor humorist Patrick F. McManus. Snag Cole at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com, the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or at www.burtonwcole.com.

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