It was obvious that both oar lock shafts were too small for their respective oar lock sockets.
The ill-fitting devices groaned enough to wake the dead, only this was morning, a time when everything comes alive.
Besides, I don't mind listening to the grinding of metal-on-metal; not when I'm rowing the small aluminum boat on the medium-size Ashtabula County farm pond anyway. The sound that heralds a leisurely day of angling ahead.
You know the kind, a morning without worries, no deadlines, no rush to race to the pond's best of the best bass-fishing spots.
It is just you, the creaky oars, the “wush” of a passing songbird's wings, the plop-plop-plop of a noisy top-water bait and the sound a bass makes when it becomes a submarine-launched ICBM missile.
Even before the first cast was made and the first bass would strike, I knew this day would fulfill its promise. It had too as well, seeing as how the morning was my own-proclaimed “Jeff's Self-Pity Day.”
They come about every so often, even being planned for, as it was it this case today.
You see, by the time you are reading this with your first or second cup of coffee of the day I'll be laid flat out on an operating table with my back – and backside – exposed to a neurosurgeon and an entourage of attending nurses and such.
I'll be going under the knife for the third time in order to try and correct a pinched nerve down in the lumbar region. The surgeon will first have chisel out the titanium rod and screws she installed 2 ½ years ago and then replace them with something that (hopefully) will work.
Maybe the third time is the charm. But the after-affects of the surgery will echo throughout the remainder of the fishing season and then hang around for much of the up-coming waterfowl- and deer-hunting seasons.
So while Jeff's Self-Pity Day is not an actual declared national holiday (though I forgot to see if the U.S. Postal Service recognizes it since it does just about every other holiday) it's my day.
Don't get me wrong. You can take self-pity to a level where it annoys everyone but yourself.
A little bit goes a long way, and even God doesn't like a serious complainer. Just ask Elijah, the Old Testament prophet.
After escaping the Judaic king Ahab and his less-than-pleasurable wife Jezebel, Elijah fled to a cave hollowed out in Mt. Horeb. Here, Elijah pouted, allowing to fester a belief that he alone was the only righteous person still left in all of the kingdom.
Not so fast, the Lord replied in a rebuke, saying: “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him”
Oops. I would try and not duplicate Elijah's whining.
So a few hours of rowing the small aluminum boat around the seam of the farm pond was intended more of an elixir than as a several-days funk.
I've done it before, this Jeff's Self-Pity Day, always trying to keep the process at a quick and trimmed simmer without allowing it to boil over into something more serious.
My first stop was an arm of the pond I call the Pavilion, a decent place all around to hunt for feeding largemouth bass.
Vapor was rising from the bronze-colored pond water, lifting up in tortured fingers to cover the dark green of the surrounding woodlot.
It was not the same place that is was one-plus-weeks a month ago and it won't be the same place three months from now.
But that was okay, too. My Jeff's Self-Pity Day was never intended to begin with the end of the spring wild turkey-hunting season and it will most certainly end long before the start of the early goose-hunting season.
I first took up a favored drop-shot rig, a 4-inch Berkley PowerBait worm affixed to the bottom jig and a Mr. Crappie minnow attached to the further-up-the-ladder hook.
Yeah, the system worked and worked twice more before I changed just for change sake.
The next cast employed a new bait-casting reel on an old Berkley Lightening which together flung a ¼ ounce spinnerbait equipped with a willow leaf blade and an undulating hula-tail of white and chartreuse rubber streamers.
That lure fooled a respectable 16-inch bass and proceeded to trick three more bass before I ran out of bay to cast to.
Up next was a leopard-finished top-water bait, small enough to catch the interest of a large sunfish but large enough to still prick the attention of a feeding bass.
Even though few were the bass that were seen busting the chops of shallow-running bluegill fingerlings, I still flicked the top-water bait. Good thing, too, as the steady plop-plop-plop of the lure was more than the bass could tolerate.
By the time I had rowed past Goose Blind Alley the fishing along that stretch of the pond the fishing had spiked. So I didn't spend much time until I had rowed to the Beaver Lodge and slightly beyond. There is an old creek channel underneath the water's surface here and often in early summer the bass will cruise along the break.
They're after small bluegills, which I am told is what a white-and-chartreuse spinnerbait is suppose to represent. I really don't know if that is true or not since I've never asked a hooked bass for its opinion on the matter.
Rather, I've been simply keen on the fact how the spinnerbait has proven itself time again during the 20 years I've fish this pond.
Disappointing was the Goose Tube Pole armature. Funny, too, since it was only three weeks ago when I captured and released a 5-pound bass from this very same spot.
Not this time, however, as two different drop-shot rigs yielded only a bass tiny enough to be food for its grandma who most recently owned the Goose Tube Pole position.
Rowing on I came to the Crappie Log, a fishing spot that's proven itself so often in the past that when I made my approach I let slip the fact that was Jeff's Self-Pity Day.
The Crappie Log is a largely submerged tree that angles out far enough from shore an angler can position himself both fore and aft and cast alongside each rim of the tree.
A spinnerbait would work here though not a topwater, since the Crappie Log is far enough out that such a lure would be out of place.
Clearly the order of the day called for the use of a drop-shot rig with two baits. A good call since the upper soft plastic lure attracted a 14-inch black crappie. Another cast and the bottom jig-and-ringtail plastic worm did the same for a respectable bass.
So-So Bay lived up to its reputation so I didn't spend much time there.
Besides I knew the clock was running out on Jeff's Self-Pity Day. Yep, even I can take only so much of wallowing in despair.
Working past Grapevine Point and rowing to the face of the dam, I leaned into the oars, trying to maintain position against a freshening breeze.
Knowing from past experiences the dam's face would likely produce a fair representation of small bass, but no heavyweights.
Maybe this pond is too predictable and my repository of weaponry unchangeable.
But that would be missing the point of Jeff's Self-Pity Day. I wanted – I needed – some angling comfort food exactly because it was Jeff's Self-Pity Day.
Next time I'll mix things up a bit, stirring the broth of what I'll use and maybe focusing some additional attention on those places that I tend to dismiss. Like So-So Bay, and Yellow Warbler Tree.
At the end of the outing and after the oars were stored underneath the boat, I felt pretty good about myself.
Maybe not so much to completely erase Jeff's Self-Pity Day but enough to get me at least through the drama of the pre-surgical go-over.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn