By JOHN L. SLOAN
Cool with no breeze. A light jacket is perfect and so is my cast. The devil horse, my old friend, the green and yellow one, nestles in tight against the grass. I let it sit until the ripples die down, then start it back toward the boat. Twitch-twitch-jerk stop. KaBloom! Fish on.
I guess the Higher Power decided to give me a break. For once, the fish measured-exactly 14-inches. In the box and back to work. Big Bird and I had the combination. For 90 minutes, we piddled and paddled around the weed beds on Old Hickory and were present for the Miracle of Misty Cove. Even the resident beaver approved. She came out of the big house on the ridge just long enough to slap the water and scare the bejeepers out of us. Someday I am going to blow that house up.
Ten of the 11 bass we caught on topwater lures were between 14 and 15 inches; all legal keepers and they were kept. Usually on Old Chickory, the bass are 13-inches and not legal. That is why it was a miracle. Talk about good eating size fish. It can only get slightly better.
And it did.
When the bass action stopped, we had some options. One option was to dig out the spoons and head for the top-secret hidey-hole that usually will produce a walleye or a sauger. That is what is slightly better eating than a bass of 14-inches.
Big Bird got the boat just right and I started fumbling around looking for a spoon. I knew I did not have a spoon but I figured if I fumbled enough, the Bird would offer me one.
Instead, he started catching fish. The first one in was a perfect walleye, just great eating size.
Then he put a sauger of the same size in the boat. That is when I spoke to him rather sharply about the silver spoon or lack thereof. Understanding as he is, he finally gave me one.
At 10 minutes past time for me to leave, we had exactly 10 bass, three walleye and three sauger in the box. The Bird allowed as how he did not want any of them. I did not try to change his mind. He had already given me a quart of his fantastic squash relish and I had visions of supper dancing in my head.
There is a trick to filleting walleye and sauger and it is hard to explain. Their rib cages contain a tremendous amount of meat and if you are careful, you can fillet out the rib cage and have meat in the amount of another fillet.
In mid-afternoon, after the fish had been on ice long enough to make the easy to fillet, I proceeded to put the knife to all the fish. What a small mountain of fillets. I set six aside for my supps.
You batter that delicate white meat differently. At least I do. I like a thin batter so I cut my cornmeal with flour about 60-40 in the cornmeal’s favor.
I dip the fillet in ice water and two beaten eggs and then shake it in the batter. Cooking oil in the fryer is at 375 and just a minute or two is all you want. Just get the batter golden brown and the fish starting to float.
Your tomatoes are sliced as is your onion and your French fries were salted while still hot and have drained on the paper towels.
Now all that is required is a big glass of tea and good helping of the squash relish. Talk about good eating!
Hard to beat fish and fixins if you know how to do the fixin.
And the fishin.