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The Saltwater Magazine for Gulf Coast Fishing!

 

Remembering Roger...

by Jim Martin

 
You won't find Roger's name on any I.G.F.A. record's list and I'm sure he was never asked to endorse any fishing gear. Most people, in fact, wouldn't even have considered him a fisherman. Still, for a brief period in my life, he was the finest companion a man could ask for - and an individual not easily forgotten.

Needing some legal advice, my attorney said held waive his fee if I would teach his son Roger how to fish. As a struggling writer I quickly agreed. Of course, he neglected to mention that Roger was 35 years old and just a wee bit strange. After introductions, however, I found him to be a likable chap and after checking the tide tables that I kept in my wallet, we agreed to meet at 4:30 the next morning.

At water's edge I tied a floating lure to Roger's line and after wading out just over our knees, showed him how to "work it". There were some fish around and pretty soon a two-pounder smacked my floater and came halfway out of the water with it.

"Gosh!" Roger shouted enthusiastically, "That was beautiful!"

"Well, that's what it's all about", I smiled, working my fish in; "Just keep casting, perhaps you'll get one too."

But Roger's efforts were all in vain as I added fish after fish to my stringer. Finally, I motioned him closer, hoping fish following my lure might nail his instead.

"Hey!", I yelled, "There's a three-pounder after my lure - look at that swirl!"

"I didn't see anything", Roger said, leaning forward and shielding his eyes from the sun's brassy glare.

"That's okay", I grinned, "Keep watching; I'm going to bring him closer."

When my plug was 10 feet away, the fish struck again, missing the hooks but knocking the lure a foot out of the water.

"There", I nodded, "You had to see that!"

"Are you sure there's a fish after your lure?", Roger asked calmly, "You're not just teasing me, are you?"

At that point I gave up. My battered plug was resting about six feet away and I yanked at it savagely. The timing was perfect and the surprised trout exploded from the water like a missile, sailed through the air and smacked Roger hard in the chest!

"Oof!", he exclaimed as the trout caromed off and raced away, making the drag on my reel scream in protest.

"Did you see him that time?". I chuckled wickedly.

I'd like to say Roger never caught a trout that morning, only he did. The stupid fish hit a sloppy short cast, the result of a backlash, hooked himself, then took six wraps around my left leg. And that's the way he was landed; me hopping to shore on one foot, Roger stumbling after, trying to pick out his tangle and the trout trying his damndest

to sink a set of trebles in my other leg. As the "three of us" made a landfall, a sizable crowd had gathered. "Gosh", Roger beamed, "Trout fishing sure is fun!"

That trip marked the beginning of a wild ride that nearly cost me my job and marriage. After two months of "tutoring Roger", my wife packed her bags for an extended visit with her mother. "I'm not living with a beast", she snapped on the drive to the airport, "When you get your 'sentence' worked off, you'll know where to find me."

I couldn't really fault her decision. Since meeting Roger, I had lost 30 pounds, had a vacant look to my eyes and jumped wildly at the slightest unexpected noise. But looking back, I suppose it was jetty fishing and the BLACK PLUG INCIDENT in late August that finally brought me to my senses.

"Here in my hand", Roger whispered, although there was no one around us in the inky predawn blackness, "Is the secret to catching these finicky jetty trout. I've got the only two in existence and I made the manufacturer swear to destroy the molds. Here."

And with something akin to reverence, he handed me a small black plug, a benign-looking two-hook floater.

"Do you mean ... I began ... "That we are going to fish with these two black plugs ... And that's all we're going to use?"

"That's right", Roger affirmed with excitement rising in his voice, "These lures are guaranteed to drive fish crazy. You know fish can't see the color black and ... if

"Whoa!" I interrupted, "If fish can't see them, then how in hell are we supposed to catch them?"

"You gotta believe", Roger said soothingly in his best Tug McGraw impersonation; trust me, you'll see."

to sink a set of trebles in my other leg. As the "three of us" made a landfall, a sizable crowd had gathered. "Gosh", Roger beamed, "Trout fishing sure is fun!"

That trip marked the beginning of a wild ride that nearly cost me my job and marriage. After two months of "tutoring Roger", my wife packed her bags for an extended visit with her mother. "I'm not living with a beast", she snapped on the drive to the airport, "When you get your 'sentence' worked off, you'll know where to find me."

I couldn't really fault her decision. Since meeting Roger, I had lost 30 pounds, had a vacant look to my eyes and jumped wildly at the slightest unexpected noise. But looking back, I suppose it was jetty fishing and the BLACK PLUG INCIDENT in late August that finally brought me to my senses.

"Here in my hand", Roger whispered, although there was no one around us in the inky predawn blackness, "Is the secret to catching these finicky jetty trout. I've got the only two in existence and I made the manufacturer swear to destroy the molds. Here."

And with something akin to reverence he handed me a small black plug, a benign-looking two-hook floater.

"Do you mean ... I began ... "That we are going to fish with these two black plugs ... And that's all we're going to use?"

"That's right", Roger affirmed with excitement rising in his voice, "These lures are guaranteed to drive fish crazy. You know fish can't see the color black and ... if

"Whoa!" I interrupted, "If fish can't see them, then how in hell are we supposed to catch them?"

"You gotta believe", Roger said soothingly in his best Tug McGraw impersonation; trust me, you'll see."

I saw all right. I saw bewildered trout knock holes out of the water all around those mysterious black plugs - but never touch a hook. I saw them do cartwheels and somersaults. And believe it or not, I even saw two trout run together and bash their fishy brains out. By 7:30 1 calculated that between the two of us we had enticed 137 near misses but hadn't dislodged so much as a scale.

On the way in, hot, tired and fishless, Roger tried to apologize.

"Gosh", he stammered, "I just can't understand it. The man swore ...

"I can!" I snapped irritably as I removed the hellish lure from my line and hurled it seaward. It never hit the water. A probable world-record seatrout engulfed it and when last seen was free-jumping like a marlin, the shiny black plug glistening from inside its cavernous mouth. That's when I began laughing, totally out of control. It was so simple. There was nothing wrong with those lures; you just couldn't use line with 'em!

And like Moses before Pharaoh, I found myself asking Roger's barrister father to "let me go", which mercifully he did. Things are pretty much back to normal now. My wife came back and last I heard, Roger was selling fishing tackle in South Florida.

Did I learn anything from that crazy summer? Just this ... The next time I find myself in need of legal advice I'm going to pay cash!

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