Net Returns

by Rev. Chris Winkler
Roselle United Methodist Church
July 5, 2009

Many years ago, back when I was a carpenter, one of my jobs was as operations manager for a construction company owned by three brothers who were all outdoorsman. Because of their influence and as a result of some genetic marker passed down to me by my grandfather, I took up fishing as a fairly serious hobby. Now, we are not talking about your average Saturday-morning-drop-a-line-in-and-wait-for-the-bobber-to-go-under kind of recreational fishing. We are talking hardcore, cast-hundreds-of-times-a-day bass fishing. One of the guys I used to go fishing with was a guy named Tim Drake - a tattooed, goateed, coarse tradesman and one of the funniest people I ever met.

At least twice a year for several years Tim and I and whoever else we could entice to join us would go on power-fishing expeditions, usually to Kentucky Lake. Tim and I had strategy. Whenever we arrived at a lake we would immediately head for the nearest bait and tackle shop. You have to understand that the reason we went to the store was not to buy some minnows or worms; we were real fishermen, so we were already armed with every size and shape of jig, crankbait, spinnerbait and rubber worm or crawdad you could ever imagine. The reason we went to the bait shop was to chat up the local fishing guides and fisherpersons in an attempt to find out what bait was working, what species were biting, where most of the fish were and what time and conditions were the best for catching big ones. Well, you can imagine how anxious a bunch of good old boys were to share their local knowledge with us - that's where Tim came in. This unlikely looking but talented fisherman had a way of charming those old bait shop bench sitters. In fact, I soon realized that his personal mission was to seek out the sourest, most reticent old guy he could find, the ornerier the better and once identified, Tim would begin to swap fishing tales with him.

I'll never forget one particular trip to a bait store when Tim got to talking with one old guy. I was looking at rods and reels nearby trying to resist my compulsion to buy another one, wondering if my wife would recognize it when I got it home. About that time I overheard Tim and this old guy testing each other. The old man was telling Tim that the real action was up by the dam where the striped bass were biting. Why, just two days ago, he declared, he himself had hooked into a striper that weighed in at a whopping 90 pounds. Tim listened intently to the old man.

When the man finished his dramatic tale, Tim confessed that he had never personally hooked anything that large. There was a time he remembered, however, when he was fishing deep and snagged an old lantern from the bottom of a lake. When he pulled it up the lantern carried a tag indicating it had been lost back in 1912. But the strangest thing about it, Tim said, was that it was a sealed, waterproof lantern and when he pulled it up, incredibly, the lamp was still lit.

After a long silence the old man took one last draw off his cigar, snuffed it out on the floor and said, "I'll tell you what. I'll take 30 pounds off my fish, if you'll put out your lantern."