The passion did not fade after a prolonged absence | News, Sports, Jobs


Eight weeks. Two months. Sixty days. It doesn’t seem long, but it can be forever when it comes to certain things – like waiting for the day when I cast a line in hopes of catching a fish.

I knew before the Cleveland Clinic surgical team anesthetized me on June 20th that it would be a while before I started doing something like “Ordinary.” The surgeons and nurses did a great job and I gradually got back to walking, showering, cooking, writing this column, and sleeping in any position other than on my back.

Who knew I would push a grocery buggy through Giant Eagle before returning to the activity that more or less defines who I am for many in my various circles. That is, after all, why you are reading this article today.

The big day – the start of the next chapter of my fishing life – was Thursday. It was the fulfillment of a promise made by Steve Zarbaugh, a longtime fishing buddy from Poland, in a phone call while I was recuperating at home.

“As soon as you’re ready, let me know and I’ll take you fishing” Steve promised.

With that promise in mind, I scratched my angling itch by watching fishing shows on TV and reminiscing about great trips from the past. So it was time. I was ready and Steve kept his promise.

We decided on a short trip on Thursday afternoon. The sun was warm, the breeze was gentle, and fluffy clouds floated above the lake.

Are fishing days any better than this?

In fact, I said I didn’t care if I caught anything. I was wondering if I could do more than a few weak throws. Would my legs keep me upright for more than 10 minutes. I was rationalizing.

I had followed orders and progressed to the point where I received clearance from the medical staff and from Barb herself. The doctor said my sternum was fixed, so I wasn’t too concerned that throwing bass lures in the weed beds would cause me to back off.

Steve, as always, kept it light. A world-class wisecracker, Steve always has a comment that puts the world in perspective and makes you laugh.

We both swung and missed several basses each before shooting one into the boat. The fish were hitting our lures but not making the commitment to put the hook in their jaws.

After maybe 20 minutes of casting I stuck a big bass that ran sideways along the starboard side and dug under the boat. I maneuvered into the driver’s seat of Steve’s boat and reached for the bass’ lower jaw. Secure in my grip, the bass stopped resisting and I swung it aboard.

It was a moment two months in the making. That’s long for a guy who feels like he’s missing opportunities when he only goes to the lake twice a week.

And that first fish? It was special. But not because of its size or any other remarkable feature other than it was my first bass after a 60 day sabbatical from the sport which gives me great joy and satisfaction.

I had missed the opportunity I had taken for granted. So when I swung the big mouth over the gunwale of Steve’s boat, I felt the emotion that needed to be released after being pent up for eight weeks.

Steve summarized: “It’s a therapeutic fish.”

In effect!

Jack Wollitz’s book “The Ordinary Fisherman” explores the fun things that make fishing a passion for so many people. He appreciates emails from readers. Send a note to [email protected]



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