As a camp host in the Superior National Forest, it seems everyone goes fishing. So this year I joined them. I’m sure anyone who ever dropped a line or cast a lure has a story of the big one that got away. This is my story. Warning: partisan rhetoric follows.
When I first bought some basic equipment, I was curious why there were so many little steel weights in a package. I asked the person at the bait shop, and she replied, “Well, a lot of them go to the fish that got away, you know, the really big ones. And there are probably gobs of them on the bottom of any lake around here.” Same story with why a person might need so many hooks.
When I experienced the nibble and tug of a fish on my line, I was so excited. After four or five of these produced no fish and the loss of my bait, I decided to have fun naming the big one that got away. I was fishing with a fellow progressive for whom I took an immediate liking when he told me, “It’s all been downhill in this country since people elected Ronald Reagan. Why didn’t they just buy more 20 mule team Borax and keep him a pitch man for soap?”
I told Doug I wouldn’t mind not catching fish if I named the fish that got away, and fishing quickly became a version of political trivia. A few examples:
“That one got away with my hook, line and sinker…must have been a Cheney fish.”
Doug agreed. “No catching him in the act and no prosecution either.”
After another hook came up fish-free, I said, “That one took my bait. I bet he’s down there with his fins raised in a V-for-victory salute, saying, ‘I’m not a crook.’ A Nixon fish.”
When a Northern Pike jumped out of the water and shed the hook in midair, Doug said, “Sarah Palin quits again.”
“Was that a rock bass?” I asked a few minutes later.
“It was a lobbyist,” he replied. “Tough and full of parasites.” (They’re not good eating either.)
We found our boat next to a man we both knew is retired military. He wanted to know why we were laughing so hard. We told him we were naming the fish that got away after politicians. After a few of our examples, he decided that it would be a bipartisan event. He announced that a Jimmy Carter had just slipped away, but before he could utter another word Doug replied, “Oh, did you just lose an angel fish?”
I’ll spare you the repartee on the Bill Clinton fish, as I’m sure you can imagine that it wasn’t in very good taste.
Doug soon found his line snagged on a rock at the bottom of the stream. “Snagging the bottom of democracy,” I said. “The Bush/Gore election.”
Shortly after that exchange I caught a bullhead. “Those are only good for bait and besides that they are mean,” Doug said. “A George Bush.”
Doug caught a very nice walleye a bit later. Walleye are a prize catch in Northern Minnesota, and this specimen was so perfect I thought we should let him free in hopes that he might make a few more just like him. “An Al Franken fish,” Doug agreed.
May I add that no alcohol was consumed during this fishing expedition.
Our final tortured metaphor was that Democrats in 2010 were like salmon, determinedly swimming up stream to spawn. Salmon defy the odds and obstacles. We thought Democrats would do well to see themselves as salmon.
Instead of your usual comments, I’ll invite you to name the fish that got away or the ones you are glad you caught. All species are candidates: tropical, fresh, brackish, salt, ocean, lake, stream, or aquarium. Any size and any politician, living or dead. Or should I say … caught or released?