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Fishing trip provides good chance for rowing
By CHRIS AUSTIN
The other day I was at my favorite watering hole when the conversation turned to fishing. It got me to thinking that I should impart some of my hard-won fishing wisdom to The Beachcomber faithful, specifically how not to do it.
This story unfolds back in the days when I was married. One of the perks of my matrimony was travel. My wife was world-renowned in the area of cleft palates and she traveled the globe teaching the teachers. Occasionally I would get to go, and my job was to look pretty and carry the luggage. One year she was headed to Nepal, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to go fishing. You may be wondering why everybody else goes to Nepal to climb mountains but I go for the fishing. I’ve been asking myself that ever since.
I was pretty fed up with the over-fished waters of California. The fish had seen every conceivable ruse to make them bite, and they had become quite jaded. My logic was the Nepali fish would be total rubes and wouldn’t stand a chance against my state-of-the-art rod, reel and lures.
Our in-country contact found a small mountain lake with a hotel, and I made plans for a weekend trip. The day arrived, I kissed my wife goodbye then hopped in a pedicab for the airport. The local aerodrome was quite different from the international one. It consisted of a rickety shack as the terminal, a grass runway and a plane so old its first pilot was either Wilbur or Orville. I think the pedicab was more technologically advanced. This creaking hulk had a row of seats on each side and three seats at the end. So there was ONE middle seat and guess who got it. I sat in stony silence staring straight down the aisle when it dawned on me that the engines had been running for some time, but we weren’t moving.
There was no need to hit the call button and summon the flight attendant because she was sitting right next to me hogging the arm rest. I asked her what the holdup was, and she said there was a cow on the runway. Of course, why hadn’t I thought of that. Grass runways must be a bovine favorite so a cow-strike must be a thing pilots here have to worry about. As soon as we were airborne, my snarky attitude turned to unadorned fear as the crazy mountain turbulence kicked in. While I was cinching down my seat belt and practicing the crash position, the attendant got up and gracefully walked to the cockpit. She parted the beaded curtain that separated the pilots from the yahoos, and I will never forget the image. Both pilots were holding up the newspaper like they were reading at the breakfast table. The entire windshield was obscured. What!? They can’t take turns reading? I felt like marching up there and suggesting that the local cricket tournament wasn’t as important as plowing into sherpas, but my legs were numb from the lap belt.
The next day I was relaxed and at the water’s edge, renting a rowboat that was the size of a WW II landing craft. For the next two days I fished the top of the water, the bottom of the lake and everything in between. I rowed and fished and fished and rowed. I used plastic worms, spinners, spoons, jigs and every type of plug ever sold. I even tried using my sock, just because. For the entire trip, the only thing I caught was a leech on my toe. I even used that for bait and still came up empty. Yet every night the warm and friendly staff at the hotel offered a communal dinner for the guests, and every night it was fish. I quickly began telling my fellow tourists I was visiting because I heard the rowing was excellent.
When it came time to fly back to Kathmandu, I got checked in and began cooling my heels in the terminal. Rereading my ticket, I noticed that it said “first class.” This was back in the dark ages when total strangers screwed up your travel plans, so I didn’t understand what first class meant, since each seat on the plane was as bad as the next. I walked over to a small deli counter and waited for service. It turned out the guy that checked me in also worked the deli. I ordered a coke and as he poured I asked him what on earth paying for a first class ticket gets you. He blinked once and said, “It gets you a free coke.” So the trip wasn’t a total bust.
— Chris Austin is the circulation manager of The Beachcomber, a cyclist and a writer.