Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Fish Tale

    To celebrate the end of Sissey's first year of college, a 4.0 cumulative GPA, (I had to throw that in, I am a mother....), Memorial Day, and several family birthdays, we gathered with family in the mountains for a weekend of fish tales, Scattegories, picnics, and the various mishaps that occur whenever a crowd gathers.   Sissey was still recovering from her glandular woes, and the chaos of having a house full of noisy cousins  plus five highly excitable dogs was just the tonic she needed to pep her up. There was enough birthday cake to ensure diabetic comas for those so inclined, and the noise level rocking from the house almost caused us to be evicted from the mountainside.
     Bro arrived at the mountain house Friday night after finishing his first two weeks at "Fish Camp," otherwise known by UVA scholars as a four week 450-level "Bio-Diversity of Fishes" biology course conducted at a remote research facility on a mountain top somewhere deep in the hills of Virginia. Bro kept insisting that it was a highly technical, advanced level class required for his biology major,  but to those of us who were of average intelligence and didn't know fish were so diverse, Bro had just arrived home from  Fish Camp, and that's all there was to it.   
      Full of his recent and newly acquired knowledge on the bio-diversity of fishes, Bro and his cousin, Tripp, set off for the Watauga river in search of "the big one." Loaded down with flyrods, leader lines, nymphs and Tevas, the boys headed to the hills for a day of fishing. As any experienced fisherman knows, they had to find the most remote section of the river, the best rapids, and  the sweetest spot in order to outwit those wily fish. Bro was eager to show Tripp how to spot the various spawning nests in the river and how to identify the indigenious species he had recently tagged on one of his research excursions. He was busting at the seams with all his bio-diverse fish knowledge as they set out early in the morning.   Seems like the one thing they didn't teach those boys up there at Fish Camp, however,  is how to play with all those fish while still holding on to your equipment. Bro landed the big one, an impressive record-breaking 24" rainbow trout,  a monster fish anyone would be proud of, a memorable catch that will become one of his greatest fish tales ever,  but in the process  he almost lost his flyrod, almost broke his ankle, and did manage to lose his brand new Costa Del Mar sunglasses. 
     I was excited about his catch, impressed by the trout, proud of his efforts, but a little peeved over the loss of his glasses and, like any mother,  had to find out exactly how it had happened.  I got various renditions of the fish tale, and finally,  after much hemming and hawing,  I got the true story from him of how he lost his glasses. 
      After moving up and down the river, searching for the perfect spot, the boys decided to head downstream to deeper, faster water. At the bend where the river widened and picked up speed, eddys of white water whirled and swirled among the boulders that broke up the flow of the Watauga. Tripp, a lean, long-legged, nimble 6'4"  drink of water, decided to cross over the rapid water and fish a spot on the far bank. He leapt from rock to rock , and  upon coming to a particularly deep  and fast-flowing rapid, catapulted with impeccable precision, cleared the rapid and landed on a slippery boulder with perfect balance. Bro had also spotted the sweet spot on the other side and decided to follow in Tripp's footsteps. This where the boy's story took an unfortunate turn and where I must explain the difference in the DNA structure of the two cousins. 
     Whereas Tripp was built tall and lean, geared for speed and agility, the Daly DNA was programmed for power and strength, and Bro was destined for brute force but not for leaping, running, or speed.   We have a Family Motto, "Daly's Don't Run," because it is a well-known fact that we are not fast, but we are strong. The Daly men are built compact, strong, tough, low-to-the-ground and powerful, but leaping, running, speed and agility are not  part of the genetic structure. When Bro was playing football in high school, he knew he had to knock'em down from the start, because he wasn't going to catch them later, so he mastered the talent of flattening his opponent right on the line. He had the biggest chuckle of his high school career the day he approached  his football coach  and with a dead-straight face told him he was thinking about joining the pole vaulting team.  Nothing more was said, but several days later, the coach approached his dad and said he needed to have a chat with him.  He was concerned about Bro taking up pole vaulting, he began, but that was as far as he got before Daddy Daly burst into laughter, having been in on the joke from the start.  Daly's don't leap, he assured him, and the coach breathed a huge sigh of relief when he realized Bro had no intention of trying to heft a lineman's bulk over a highly perched pole. We still chuckle about it to this day, just the image of Bro leaping through the air.....and so began Family Motto #2: Dalys Don't Leap.
   So as you can see, the fact that Bro was attempting to leap from slippery boulder to slippery boulder was probably not a great idea from the start.  He would have been much better off to have simply picked up the boulder and tossed it aside, but unfortunately, he followed his cousin and leapt.
       He almost cleared the rapid, but his foot didn't quite take hold as he landed on the slippery boulder and he plunged into a cold rush of white water. His ankle caught on a submerged rock and twisted, bringing him down into the frigid mountain stream, taking his breath away, knocking off his hat and glasses and sending his flyrod floating down river.  Fortunately, he grabbed the most important thing first  and was able to save his rod, but the glasses were lost in the ensuing struggle.
     "Bro," his sister yelled from the other side of the room after he fessed up, "YOU KNOW DALY'S DON'T LEAP! What were you thinking?"  Ahh, you can always count on family to be there to support you in your lowest moments!
        He said he tried to call me after the mishap to let me know what had happened, but I never answered my phone.   I couldn't say too much to him about his little fishing mishap, I admitted with a sheepish grin,  because I had just dropped my brand new Droid phone into a glass of sweet iced tea. It was a tad incapacitated at the moment, therefore I was unable to take his call.   (Note to self: not a good idea to place phone on car console above glass of tea while backing down a mountain.)
       I assured him, however, that I immediately placed the phone and battery in a baggie filled with Carolina long-grain rice so the starch in the rice could absorb all the moisture and return the phone to working order. And how did I know this would work? Because the last time Bro went fishing in the Watauga, he dropped his brand new cell phone into the river after he slipped while leaping from boulder to boulder. He managed to fish it out of the water, dried it out in a bag of rice and got six more months of use out of it before it died. Thus, we now have Family Motto #3: Always Travel with Rice.
      So at the end of the weekend, we sent Bro back to Fish Camp with the greatest fish tale of his life, a cheap pair of Wal-Mart glasses,  and a note to his professor to please give instructions on  how to hold on to items while playing in the creek.
      In the meantime,  I am confident that the superior quality of Carolina gold long grain rice will ensure success in the highly technical recovery procedure of my personal handheld device.
       And in a few more days, I'm calling you all to come over for fish stew, steamed rice and tall glasses of sweet iced tea.

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