OPEN SEASON by Reavis Z. Wortham

February 25, 2017
March 25, 2017

Catch and Release

I stood there at the tailgate

of my pickup with a fishhook buried in my bottom lip and still another in my thumb.

But I can explain. 

I’d been looking for a tiny bream hook for my granddaughter on her first fishing trip. The Peanut’s barely old enough to hold a Snoopy rod and was growing bored with reeling in the blue plastic fish on the end of her line. Well, she wasn’t really bored with it, because like all children, she likes to reel, but I wanted her to catch a real fish.

I haven’t truly fished for more than a few minutes at a time in years, because every trip involves at least one kid who is cranking in the line to check their bait, or to watch the bobber make a wake, or trying to tangle their line so that I have to pick out the bird’s nest.

This time was no different. 

You might argue that I’ve hooked myself before when there were no children around, and you’re right. There was that fly-fishing trip in Colorado over twenty years ago when I managed to bury a Yellow Humpy in the back of my ear and had to drive back to town and endure the guffaws of an entire fire crew who sent me on to the emergency room…

…where I again endured indignation and an accusation of sexual harassment from an elderly patient who didn’t like my explanation that the fly in my ear truly was a Humpy…

…and then the sarcastic, and slightly funny, nurse who said my new “earring” was in the wrong ear, “because left is right and right is wrong.”

She sent me back to the doctor who was more interested in questioning me about using Yellow Humpies that time of the year than removing the fly.

All of that went through my mind as a hot lance of pain shrieked from my bottom lip to my brain. You know, I’d never accidentally hooked myself there before.

I’d found the tiny hook in the bottom of my tackle box and tied it onto the Peanut’s line. Forgetting there was already a bobber on it, I held the bare hook between my teeth for a moment (don’t ask me why I did that, because I truly don’t know) and stuck the rod into a holder where the wind caught the float, setting the hook.

When I jumped from the pain, a treble hook sticking out of a clear plastic box full of lures snagged my thumb. The wind grabbed the float a second time and I barely caught it before it set the hook deeper into my lip.

All this was going on while people were milling around, talking on the bank of the largest stock pond on the ranch, moving chairs, fishing, and tying on lures of their own.

Trying not to call attention to my predicament, I bit down on the line just below the bobber to keep it from flying in the wind and examined my thumb.

It reminded me of the time when a friend of the Hunting Club went with us and caught Wrong Willie between the eyes with a Rapala. One of the treble hooks went in one side of that crease over his nose and out the other. 

We laughed because it’s always funny when someone else gets hooked, or bangs their shin on a trailer hitch, and then set about getting Willie free.

Doc was the first to recommend a remedy that day. “Clip off the barb and push it back through.”

Then came, “Pinch that piece of skin up and back it out,” and of course the ever popular, “Dang, you look funny with that Rapala hanging down over your nose.”

We finally decided to clip the barb and release our two hundred pound catch who has a tiny scar between his eyes to this day.

The hook in the ball of my thumb was in the exact place where Doc had his painful experience while fishing alone. He reached down to pick up a Tru-turn lying beside his trailer tire at a launch ramp. He grabbed it and stood up, not seeing it was attached to a line held securely to the ground by the tire.

The Tru-turn did its job as designed and the point buried itself all the way to the joint. Lucky to have a knife in his pocket (always be prepared), he cut the line, got behind the wheel of his truck, plunged his hand into a small cooler full of ice and water on the seat beside him, and drove to the ER where I’m sure they didn’t make fun of a man in distress.

Back at the stock pond, I bent to see how bad I’d hooked my thumb. The sharp point had gone through the skin and back out the other side. I was lucky, because I’d filed the barbs off that particular lure for quick catch and release. 

I backed it out and was free. Except for a little blood, there wasn’t any serious damage.

Now, onto the bream hook in my lip. I thought about asking for help, but still recalling the sarcastic abuse in the Colorado emergency room, I remained silent. Also, I didn’t want the kids there to see what I’d done. There was the possibility it would scare them when someone shrieked the obligatory, “We got a man hooked here!”

Knowing what I had to do, I pinched the shank, pushed down, and yanked the little hook free. It’s hard to express how shockingly painful that was, but suffice it to say my eyes watered and there’s still a small knot on the inside of my lip.

On a positive note, we had a great day of fishing, though I was the only thing I caught…and released.

Email Reavis Wortham at

[email protected]


Email Reavis Wortham at [email protected]


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