The Catch of His Life Was Me

She was from Ohio. He was from Georgia. She'd never heard of a crankbait. But it was the fishing that reeled her in.

They say Southerners are wonderful storytellers. That might not be universally true, but it’s true for my husband.

I met Pat after he moved to Ohio, where I lived then, and fell for him because of his entertaining stories about the wilds of Georgia. He beguiled me like Scheherazade with a thousand tales of outdoor adventures: rabbit and coon hunting, frog gigging, scouting, and especially fishing. It wasn’t long before I was hooked.

Growing up in Ohio I fished a bit with my dad for bluegill and sunfish, but fishing in Georgia had its own unique vocabulary. What I called a sinker, Pat called a lead. What I called a bobber, he called a cork. I knew what a lure was, but I had never heard of a crankbait. And I had never been bass fishing.

Eventually Pat took me south to meet his parents, visit his old haunts, and go fishing. Like most young women who hope to become brides, I did my best to be agreeable, and Pat’s folks were welcoming enough.

But talking with my in-laws-to-be was often puzzling and sometimes embarrassing. I grew up saying “hi,” so it took me a while to figure out that “hey” could be just a greeting and not a signal that something else was coming: “hey, your pot is boiling over” or “hey, your zipper is down.” They must have wondered why I stopped and stared every time someone said “hey.”

My efforts to join the conversation weren’t always successful, either. Like the time my future in-laws were discussing jug fishing.

“Who would want a fish small enough to swim into a jug?” I asked.

I never heard the end of it.

One day, Pat and his daddy slid the camper into the back of the pickup, hitched up the boat trailer, and away we went to camp and fish on Lake Sinclair.

His casts always landed perfectly, just where he intended. Mine either fell short or went too far, leaving my line tangled in the grass and greenbrier.

Pat was a patient suitor. Before we went out on the water, he tried to teach me to cast with his open-face spinning reel.

“Like this, Margie,” he said, and with a swing of his arm and a flick of his wrist, the line with the lead on the end would sail through the air and drop where he wanted it to. Then he’d casually reel it in. Easy-peasy. “Now you try.”

I just couldn’t get the hang of it. With every cast I created a bird’s nest of fishing line, which took forever to untangle and usually required the use of Pat’s handy pocketknife.

A quick trip to the store for a little closed-face Zebco saved me further embarrassment. Pat fixed up my new rod and reel with a crankbait, and finally we were ready to fish.

I learned a few more Southern expressions after we got his daddy’s boat in the water and began to ease around the coves and shallows with the trolling motor. Pat taught me about water moccasins and told of the time his buddy cast his line toward the shore and snagged a squirrel.

“You have to cast almost, but not quite, up to the bank,” he said.

His casts always landed perfectly, just where he intended. Mine either fell short or went too far, leaving my line tangled in the grass and greenbrier.

The first day on the lake Pat spent all his time untangling my line, straightening out my tackle, and replacing lost crankbaits. His handy pocketknife was often brought into play. “It’s okay, Margie. Don’t worry about it,” he reassured me. But I felt sorry that he never got to do any fishing and swore that I’d get myself loose the next time I tangled.

I snagged my line soon enough, but this time I pulled back hard on the fishing rod and got it loose. The crankbait sailed straight back toward me, treble hook and all, and two of the three hooks stuck right in my thigh.

There is no way to back barbed hooks out of tender thigh meat. Pat looked at me in despair. “The only way to get those hooks out is going to be to cut them out.” Thankfully, the two hooks were lodged just under the skin and not too deep. His handy pocketknife came out again, and Pat cut them free as gently as he could.

“I guess we’ll head back,” he said, gathering up fishing gear and getting ready to head for the boat launch. But instead, with a couple of Band-Aids, I stuck it out for another two days. I think that’s what cemented our relationship.

We’ve been married for over thirty years now. Maybe one day we’ll buy a boat.


About the author

Margaret Rodeheaver writes short fiction and novels for children and adults. She lives with her husband near Macon, Georgia, and spends a lot of time outdoors (if you count her screened porch). She enjoys reading, music, and travel, and is also a pretty good whistler.

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