Hoosier outdoor writer Don Cranfill mugs up for the camera with the first, and so far only, fish to come aboard the author’s new boat.
Hoosier outdoor writer Don Cranfill mugs up for the camera with the first, and so far only, fish to come aboard the author’s new boat.
I’ve been cloistered over the last few weeks and frankly, it was getting tiresome. That’s why, in the spirit of “All work and no play makes magazine editors go CRAAAAZZY!!,” it was high time to venture outdoors.
My first outing was an auspicious occasion: the christening of our new boat.
Both regular readers know that I’ve had a lifelong love/hate relationship with watercraft. Now slightly past the half-century mark, I’ve nearly been struck by lightning once, almost drowned twice, been stranded in the middle of desolate lakes several times and smelled the cold breath of impending death on too many water-borne excursions to count. Fortunately, I’ve been wrong so far.
At the other end of the scale, watercraft have been the centerpiece for many of the happiest moments of my existence. I’ve had a front-row waterside seat for dolphins, eagles, sea turtles, otters, manta rays, manatees and all manner of various other aquatic critters. I’ve shot “flying carp” with a bow in Kentucky, kayaked the Niagara River, spent a week paddling in the Boundary Waters and sailed a wooden ketch off Hilton Head Island. Along the way I’ve witnessed unbelievable sunrises, indescribable sunsets and floated along quietly at midnight, seemingly suspended among the stars of the universe.
All in all, boat life is good.
My own naval command has been long and checkered but now, after a 10-year gap, I own a power boat that might be the answer to all my nautical dreams. The “Yellow Sallie” (soon to be renamed) is a barely-used 19-foot deep-V center-console model equipped with nearly every bell and whistle you could want on a fishing vessel.
The boat is offshore capable but still small enough for Indiana’s reservoirs. The trolling motor has an autonomous satellite navigation system that could run a nuclear submarine in its spare time while the “Multi Function Unit” atop the console incorporates 3D side scan sonar, regular sonar, GPS chart plotter, engine instruments and can be networked with thermal imaging cameras and radar if desired. I believe it also makes julienne fries and prepares your tax return.
The boat itself is rated for six people and has more storage space than my own home. There are several fish boxes, a baitwell and a locking tackle storage drawer. It’s also equipped with a trim tab/trolling motor system and an automatic shallow water anchor spike. Even more importantly, there’s a really great stereo.
The Yellow Sallie is an amazingly far cry from my first bass boat that used a plastic lawn chair as the rear seat and could be counted on to start at least half the time provided you weren’t near a body of water. It also incorporated something known as “stick steering,” a dangerous mechanical system that used aircraft cable and wishful thinking to control the boat. I’ve painted a drab picture of the ugly, ungainly craft but reality was actually far worse.
But such things are behind me now and we fast-forward to Monroe Reservoir for our inaugural outing. The fishing was poor as thirty-mile-per-hour fall winds whipped the lake into a frenzy but we were safe even as most boaters stayed onshore. Our crew of Don, Scott and I spent the whole day fishing for hybrid striped bass, eating gas station sandwiches, listening to music and laughing out loud with the carefree hearts of men who haven’t made a single boat payment yet.
It was a good day and like the proverbial Old Man, I finally returned to the sea.
THE HUNTING STORY- The very next day I went hunting with my long-lost buddy Ken; he was back for a short visit from his new home in the desert Southwest. With only a couple of hours to spare, we grabbed our .22 rifles and made a quick trip to a nearby woodlot to commit atrocities on the local squirrel population.
Gun writers love to talk (some use the word ‘lie,” but don’t listen to my mother) about making long shots, but what about the other extreme?
Picture an unnamed but handsome journalist quietly stalking along in the woods when he unexpectedly confronts a squirrel crouching on a limb so close that the writer could smell the acorns on his (the tree rat’s) breath. Needless to say, the circumstances were quite shocking for both.
Our almost-famous word-slinger quickly mounted his rifle to see nothing except a blurry gray blob in the rifle scope because the animal was literally within spittin’ distance. Not surprisingly a fast and wild snap-shot resulted in a miss that tremendously surprised everyone involved. Following the shot, the resulting melee had hunter and prey thrashing about in a screaming, cartoon-like blur of camouflage and fur until the hapless hunter finally slumped to the forest floor wheezing and aghast. The squirrel, meanwhile, was never seen again.
Maybe it’s time to just go fishing again.
Brent Wheat is a familiar face to Montgomery County readers. His weekly outdoor column, “Out in the Open,” now appears in The Paper of Montgomery County. He can be reached at editor@wildindiana.com.
Brent T. Wheat is an award-winning columnist, and publisher of WildIndiana.com. His column appears weekly in The Times.