"What's that?" I asked.
"I won the raffle with Project Healing Waters!" Dick said, almost yelling into the phone.
"The one where you get to fish the governor's pond?" I asked.
"Yeaaaaaaaah." He happily replied.
"Well, that also means that I didn't win." I said laughing.
"Well... Did you know..." Dick paused between every word, with true Dick Frencer style, "...that I get to invite a BUDDY to fish with me."
"I saw that in the description that they were going to pick two people, and each person gets to bring a buddy to fish with them..."
"Yeaaaaaaaah..." Dick said, cooly, "and you know what I was thinking?"
"What's that?" I said.
"I was thinking that youuuuu are a buddy of miiiiiine..." He said softly, drawing our the vowels in the words he wanted emphasized.
"I am?" I said happily, knowing where this was going.
"I was also thinking, that youuuuu are a damn good fly fisherrrrrrr." He said, in that same cool voice.
"That's the rumor."
"Well, if you are not too bussyyyyyyyy, then maybe you would want to go fish the governor's pond with meeeeeee."
Although we were talking over the phone, I could clearly imagine the smile on his face, along with the twitching of his mustache, as he proudly invited me. The image made me laugh out loud, and when I was done laughing, I obviously said yes.
It was long-time buddy Terry Kowallis who organized the fundraiser for the local Project Healing Waters chapter, and every dime made from the fundraiser would be used to provide gear, food and beverages, along with a port-a-potty for the local events.
"So how did you get the governor's pond?" I asked Terry as Dick and I stepped out of the car on the day of the event.
"Well, I kind of knew somebody who knew somebody." He said, as we walked over to the BBQ dinner they had set out for us.
"Well this is a pretty cool opportunity." I said.
"Yeah, and I brought a little something to share at the end of the day." Dick said, with a smile.
We stepped onto the patio where we were greeted by Marcy and Kylie Kowalis, who had laid out dinner for the evening. They had Cutter's Grand BBQ catered tri tip with the trimmings, along with a homemade brownie that would stop your heart with the amount of love that was put into it. Having this kind of a dinner should be prize enough for winning, but the best had yet to come... soon we would get to fish.
It was Dick Frencer and Linda Jones who one the two raffle prizes of the evening, so before we hit the water the two winners got celebratory pictures together.
"Alright Dick, you and Erik are in my boat!" Terry said happily, as he brought the boat close to the shore, making it easy for Dick to get in. Jay was the other gentleman with a boat who was rowing Linda and her husband out to fish, and once everyone was situated it was game on.
Dick got in the front of the boat with a popper the size of a Sprite can.
"Jeez, Terry. Will they hit this monstrosity?" I asked, as he handed me another colossal popper to tie on.
"You bet they will! Think of it as a dinner bell... The bigger the bell the bigger the fish!" He said with a laugh.
I gunned the monster-popper at the bank, and to my surprise it was not too difficult to cast. I flicked my rod to give it a typical POP, but there was nothing typical about the POP of this popper.
"Oh my God!" I said laughing. "They could use this thing at the local water park in the wave pool!"
Terry started to laugh... "Just give it a try!" He said confidently.
I pitched my fly back in the throat of a cluster of overhanging pine limbs and gave my fly a subtle, if you could call it that, pop...
"Whoa!" I yelled, and set the hook, ripping the bass from its lair.
"What did I tell ya?! Didn't I tell you that would work? Dang kids never believe me!" Terry said.
"Oh I believe you now!" I said, watching my bass fly from the water.
After a fun fight the bass was ready to come in, and I was able to lip it for a picture.
"Good job, Erik." Dick said, watching from the front seat. "I didn't think you liked catching carp that much..." He said with a straight face.
Both Terry and I started laughing, as Dick turned back to continue fishing.
My black club of a popper flew again deep into the mouth of a branch-made cave, and with a subtle pop came another bass.
"How am I missing those?" Dick asked, having just cast to the same spot before me.
"I am getting way back there, almost dangerously back, where I might snag a tree limb...that's where they are." I said, coming up on another great looking bass home.
"Throw it in there, I want to see what you're talking about." Dick requested, watching as I made my cast. I pulled back on the fly rod, adding a haul to generate line speed, and shot the rod tip forward, creating a sharp arch that sent my popper in deep.
"Oh no!" Terry said, "You got it stuck! You don't want to do that, Dick."
"Hold on!" I said, "It's not stuck yet..."
I could see the line resting just over a branch deep in the pocket, and delicately pulled on the line bringing the popper up on the other side of the branch. With one last pull the large popper fell over the branch without getting stuck, and plopped onto the water.
"Oh man! That fish hit as soon as that popper hit the water! That was cool!" Terry yelled with excitement.
"That was all luck!" I said. "But still, I would like a picture with my fish." Terry brought out his camera and when I had the fish in I held it up for a shot.
"Okay, Dick it's your turn!" Terry said, putting down his camera.
"No, don't worry about me, I am happy to be out here with you guys." He said, casting his popper.
Off in the distance we could hear Jay's boat having some success as well; the sounds of cheering echoed over the pond.
"Okay guys, when you catch a fish we need to cheer louder than that." Terry said, and it wasn't long before we got the opportunity.
"Let's go try out the cove near the Otter house." Terry said, rowing us towards the governor's home.
"They don't mind us getting close?" I asked.
"Nope, they were all for it." Terry said. Just then Governor Otter came out of his house and, after moving some stuff around, looked over and waved to us.
"You guys catching fish?" The governor asked happily.
"Yeah, we're doing alright!" Terry hollered back.
"Well good! Stay out as long as you want." He said before giving us a final wave and heading back into his house.
"He doesn't know us very well, does he?" I said with a laugh looking back at Terry and Dick.
"You thinking of staying all night?" Terry asked.
"Well there goes Erik getting us in trouble." Terry laughed, but then Dick spoke up.
"Erik!" Dick said sharply.
I looked over at him.
"Do you think you could hit the front window with your fly?" Dick asked.
I looked over to the house, witch was only about 60 feet away.
"Yes." I said.
"I will donate another $100 to Healing Waters if you hit the window." Dick said with smirk that made his mustache twitch with delight.
I smiled brightly and started to laugh, as Terry suddenly started oaring us away from the house.
"Come on, Erik, we are getting further away." Dick's mustache twitched, suppressing a smile.
I smiled even brighter, as Terry pulled a bit harder on the oars.
"$200!" Dick said firmly, as if making a final bid at a live auction. "And you know I'm good for it..."
"$200 for the org, Terry!" I said with a smile.
"You guys are going to get me in trouble." He said.
"Naaaa, we are just having fun..." Dick coolly, and was that a smile on his face?
A few of my laser-beam casts ended up hooking some foliage deep in a pocket, and when it happened Terry would turn the boat around and push me into the branches so that I could unhook the popper. Still, it was worth getting the fly as far back as possible, simply because that's where the fish were. I set the hook on another take deep in the shadows.
"Oh geez!" I yelled, as the fish thrashed so hard it was breaking surrounding twigs.
"This is a big fish guys!" But that much was obvious. The bass came out of the shadows into the air, showing off its size. It struggled hard to get back in the overgrowth, and the fly line burnt my hands as I held it back from its home. Terry plunged his net into the water so fast that the fish was netted before it had time to be spooked by the movement.
"We are definitely getting a picture of this one; it was not going to get away!" Terry said, reaching for his camera.
"Okay, Terry. It's your turn to fish." I said, after dipping my fish back into the water.
"You don't have to let me fish, you're the winner's guest."
"I always had intended to let the person who was going to row us fish."
"Well, it has to be okay with Dick."
"What do you say, Dick?" I asked.
"Okay with me!" He said happily, and Terry hopped out from behind the sticks and was into a fish in no time.
Terry and I have fished together many times, and while we fish we play baseball: we get three attempts to catch a fish, and if the guy fishing messes up three times, you are out and back behind the sticks. In this case, Terry caught three fish very quickly allowing me to get back to the casting seat. Despite both Terry and my success, Dick was way overdue to catch a fish.
“Okay Dick we are going to stop fishing until you catch a fish.” Terry said, but Dick would have none of that.
“No, Erik, you keep fishing! Don’t worry about me.” He said, but that’s not how Terry and I play. Sure we both hoped to catch fish, but it isn’t a good day until everyone catches fish.
We had just left what I would consider the “better looking” water, so I held off casting until I could find some structure. Dick, on the other hand, kept at it.
The sudden sounds of water erupting caught both Terry’s and my attention, and surprise lit both our faces when Dick’s rod was doubled over with a fighting fish.
“That’s the way it’s done, Dick!” I yelled out in excitement.
“I was rowing faster by that water, thinking it wouldn’t be holding fish.” Terry said, grabbing the net. The bass at the end of Dick's line was putting on quite a show, and from my angler it looked like Dick was holding on for the ride. With one final heave, Dick brought the fish up and Terry scooped it up with the net.
“Nice fish!” I said, snapping some pictures.
“You think so?” Dick asked, with a smirk. He was playing it cool, like it was no big deal that he just got into the fish, but after knowing Dick for as long as I have, I knew he was swelling with pride.
He let the fish go gently, and watched it turn and swim away before gathering his line back together to continue fishing. Both Terry and I were also happy to see Dick bring in a fish, making the day a good day for all. Just before I had time to make a cast after Dick’s fish, both Terry and I were distracted again by another thrashing fish off to our left...
“Another one, Dick!?” Terry yelled.
“Yep!” He said back happily.
“Dang, Dick! Two casts two fish!” I said happily, handing the net back to Terry to help land the fish.
“I’m a little disappointed in this fish...” Dick said. Both Terry and I looked over at him with a bit of concern which is exactly what Dick wanted.
“I was hoping it was a carp.” He said.
“Get out of here!” I said smiling, and Dick released his fish, laughing at his own joke.
We ended the evening with everyone on the boat happy to bring in a few fish for the day.
“Dick, let's get a picture together.” I said, handing Terry my camera.
“Okay, smile.” Terry said.
“Dick, you are not smiling.” Terry said after a few pictures.
“Let me see...” I said, grabbing the camera and looking back through the pictures.
“You look like you are a member of the Mob.” I said to Dick... And I think he liked the thought.
“Here, Terry, take one more please. And this time no smiles, I’m with Dick Frencer the Mob Boss.” So Terry took one last picture of us, with no smiles.
The drift boats were all saddled back up in their trailers, but before we were to set off for the night, Dick had one last treat.
Dick explained the significance of this particular type of scotch, which most were able to follow, but this kind of drink is completely wasted on me. I am not that much of a drinker, mainly because I can't stand the taste of alcohol. Still, Dick was proud to share it with us, and when it came to offering me some I said "I'll take a splash."
Frank, Lori Otter's brother, who was there to make sure our event went well, took a glass and both he and Dick exchanged their thoughts on the smoothness of the drink. I on the other hand kept my mouth shut, because to me it tasted like something I would use to remove permanent marker from a school desk... Not that I have ever had to do that...still, my one-finger pour, that was more the size of a pinky, seemed to never go away.
Knowing it would not be socially acceptable to just dump the drink on the ground I held my breath, and took the rest in one gulp.
"You know you are supposed to sip it..." Dick said, looking at me funny.
"Yeah, well..." I said with a choke, "You would have been pissed if I would have dumped it." I said.
Dick let out a loud laugh, and held up his drink to me as a solute of accomplishment. We all stood around talking about fishing and hunting for another hour or more before Terry spoke up.
"Well, Frank, we better get out of your hair. Thank you for helping us with our event." he said, and shook Frank's hand.
"Hey, any time! Hope you can do it again next year." Frank said, and shook our hands.
Dick handed me the keys to his SUV, having had a few more finger pours than I, and he told me about his excitement of catching a few bass this evening.
"It's been over two years since I have been able to get out fly fishing." He told me.
"Yep. And I am happy you were here with me to enjoy the evening."
"Hey, thanks for inviting me along. It was a great time." I said, and we drove home, going over the details of the evening and his success catching bass.