Sunday, August 12, 2012

Walleye date night for Old Men and Liars Club

The meeting of the Old Men and Liars Club was called to order at 6 a.m. amongst the thunderous applause of, well, thunder.

Bright flashes of lightning played across the sky to the north, over Lake Erie, threatening the cancellation of the meeting. This in spite of the fact a quorum was present.

A roll call was requested and found to include long-time members Steve Pollick (recently retired), Paul Liikala (retired), Ed Moody (retired ages ago), Mike Mainhart (not officially retired but might as well be),  and the group’s underpaid, underappreciated, and still officially working, recording secretary.

All are likewise affiliated with outdoor writing, each perfecting their craft through expressions in one venue or another.

Joining the group was club initiate, Mark Winchell, the executive director of the Ashtabula County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The club had been called together to discuss the relative merits regarding the fine walleye fishing found off Geneva State Park. A fact-finding mission was therefore deemed necessary; Mainhart had said when he organized the meeting.

Reading of the minutes from the club’s last session was dispensed with since everyone other than the recording secretary wasn’t interested in them anyway.

To guide the troupe of Old Men and Liars Club members was John Gribble, owner/operator of DB Charters and a heralded Lake Erie charter skipper of some renown.

Gribble decided to pilot his Baha fishing boat north, hoping to get as far away from land as possible. In this case, not setting up until the vessel’s array of electronics displayed 70 feet of water and was marking clouds of colorful blips that would indicate schools of walleye.

Setting the planerboards and snapping fishing lines to them, Gribble ensured that each rig came complete with a Contender spoon. It was one of these very same spoons that foiled the new Ohio state-record brown trout, taken aboard Gribble’s boat last month.

“These are heavier than Stingers and come in only 10 colors,” Gribble said.

Gribble’s “dark days/dark lures, bright days/bright lures” mantra was on this meeting’s agenda, too.

Yet even before all of the lines were set the meeting was interrupted. One of the starboard side planerboard lines became unhitched and swung to the stern of the boat. Being the gracious and magnanimous gentlemen that they are, the club's members permitted plebe Winchell to winch in the day’s first fish.

A handsome walleye, the fish was deposited into the cooler with a little fanfare.

However, distracted by something or another, Liikala missed out on what species it was that Winchell had caught.

“Sheepshead,” Winchell said.

And with that, Winchell immediately qualified as a member of the Old Men and Liars Club.

Of course, truth-slaying is an art form that must have regular maintenance and honing. And no one is better at oiling and greasing the truth than is Liikala who took Winchell under his wing in order to fine-tune the latter’s fledging abilities.

Liikala also knows how to reel in a fish or two when given half a chance. And during this meeting Gribble ensured that each of the members had several chances.

When Liikala finally managed to recover a walleye a few kind remarks passed the lips of one or two members. Even so, those statements of encouragement  were drowned out by an even louder call for an authenticity check.

After all, membership in the Old Men and Liars Club requires truth-stretching as well as poking holes in everyone else’s ego. Otherwise a suspension in rights and privileges is required.

Gribble had his hands full, and not just baby-sitting a bunch of old geezers, either.

Lake Erie was rough, with seas swelling from around three feet to approaching four to six feet.

No way could Gribble turn the boat around in order to pilot the vessel back over the pods of walleye now receding in the distance.

“In the troughs the speed of the lures is about 2.2 to 2.4 miles per hour, which is optimum for walleye,” Gribble said. “On the peaks the speed is more like 2.8 miles per hour. Walleye don’t like that; they want consistency.”

Still, exceptions can prove the rule. And the rule was broken 15 times before Gribble said the winds and waves were at the point a decision was needed whether to continue or else end the meeting.

A vote was taken and the recording secretary’s “go for it” vote was overruled by the rest of the membership. Bunch of ‘fraidy cats, if you ask the recording secretary.

The boat trip back to the Geneva State Park marina was not a joy ride by any stretch. Waves repeatedly crashed over the vessel’s bow and washed its windscreen during the two-plus-hour return.

All the time the Old Men and Liars Club members were polishing their art. Not as outdoors writers, however, but as persons of some advanced age and of some advanced fibbing.

Back at port the (and only after the members had extracted themselves from the boat with some age-related difficulty) walleye were divvied up and placed in their respective coolers.

It had been a fine day. In fact, a great day. And not just about the fishing or the catching.

Once again the Old Men and Liars Club had met without any body blows being struck besides some hearty handshakes and back-slapping.

About the most serious injuries were to several overly sensitive egos.

But, when all things are considered, that’s really why the meetings are held in the first place.

Respectfully submitted,

Recording Secretary, Old Men and Liars Club.

P.S.: The membership was mindful that the last time it met the meeting took place aboard “Thumper,” a charter boat operated by Ron Johnson, who died of cancer a few months later. Fair skies and following seas, Captain Ron. The Old Men and Liars Club misses you.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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