"So how's the fishin?" asked WW&W meteorologist Summer Solstice, gleaming with sweat as she cranked up her first heatwave, just in the nicka time for the fortha July weekend. "But rub this sunblock on my shoulders while you're telling me, and don't be shy about it."
So far this week I've fished brookies, bullheads, splake, lake trout, perch, bluegills, crappie, smallmouth, northern and walleye. I'm not saying I caught any, I'm just saying I fished for them, and that's the truth, which ain't saying much except the term "trout bum" spills over into other species.
It's also not stimulating conversation that challenges the bounds of credibility like a good fish story. Then again, they say truth is stranger than fiction, which may even happen right in this column. But who wants facts when you can have fiction? Or a little something in between or on the side, like faction, my specialty of the house.
"What would you say if I told you I saw more than 11,000 fish so far this week?
"Who wouldn't believe that?" Summer rolled her eyes.
It wasn't my total for the week. I saw them all in one place at one time. I waded among them and took their picture while they nibbled at my shins like they were eating bugs and crustaceans from pilings. It was quite a school, and pretty cool.
If I came right out and told her I'd actually seen 11,300 fish up close, she'd ask me what I'd been smokin' and want to share; then I'd have to tell her the truth, that I'd been smoking lake trout right out in the open, but they're hard to keep lit. It's too complicated to 'splain in one column that deals with life so anecdotally and metaphorically.
Regular readers will recall discussing Donovan's 70s hit song "Mellow Yellow" a few columns back, so named by Country Joe Cocker for starting the rumour that you could catch a buzz smoking dried banana peels. Growing up Yooper, my drug of choice was smoking chubs, herring, lake trout and whitefish. My Dad used to call it all Finlander penicillin, good for what ailed you, like chicken soup or kala mojakka (fish stew), truly miracle drugs and home remedies to this day.
But back to the facts and the 11,000-plus fish.
"And not a moment too soon," said WW&W diversion correspondent Red Herring. "Rumour in the street was you were going straight, threatening to report the news the way it happened, and not embellish or make anything up," he added in a deliberate attempt to bait and misrepresent me. Or was it?
I would never say or do such a hideous thing, but you can't be too careful when Red Herring's involved. He'll lead you astray or on a wild goose chase if you let him.
"Where'd ya hear that kinda malarkey?" I asked incredulously, thinking he mighta started it across the lake in Canadia since he spelled rumour with a "u."
"We live in a pretty conservative community and I can't mention names so I'll just use initials," Summer whispered so close it gave me goose bumps, "I've heard it all over town, from both sides, from the CIBC to KBC, B&B, and VFW."
"You didn't just see all those fish, you waded bare-legged and flip-flopped among them, took pictures and have witnesses to the MDNR and CCWA planting of 11,300 frisky walleye fry in Chassell Bay," she said clandestinely, using initials that nobody can figure out to cloak the event in mystery, however thinly veiled.
"There's no such fish as a red herring," Herring asserted, "it refers to a kipper, a whole herring that's been gutted, split from head to tail, then dried, pickled, salted and cold smoked," he 'splained graphically. Who knows more about good smoke then a herring?
"It's their valhalla, they've been rubbed the right way with salt , sugar, spice and everything nice as long as humans have been preserving fish," Summer added handing me the sunblock again. "In England and Haiti they eat kippers and eggs for breakfast."
Here we smoke salmon, lake trout and whitefish and eat it as is. I like it on Caraway Finn Crisp with cream cheese and capers. Or in an omelette or pasta, with smoked gouda, crumbly bleu, or garlic parmesan alfredo.
"Fishing is based largely on treachery, tricking fish into biting, and Red's real good at his yob," Summer bragged. "He's the iconic idiom, provocateur and false protagonist who evolved to the highest color to which a herring can aspire. You're lucky to have him."
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at firstname.lastname@example.org