Fish Camp Surgery

By Mike Zusman

Our third day of fishing on a remote Canadian lake saw us running out of time, beer, and patience. Unable to conjure up the gator-sized pike we were after, the best we could do was conjure up more beer. Four 30-packs of Molson arrived on the next float plane into camp, accompanied by a .22 rifle the guides requested for use as a bear deterrent.

Canadian bear spray, I joked to myself. 

The next afternoon, many Molsons deep, the pike still managed to elude us, and our spirits were low. Out of desperation, my friend JT reached into his tacklebox and produced the largest Rapala I’d ever seen. Resembling a juvenile walleye, it was a foot long, and had three treble hooks the size of baby hands. Only a monster pike would dare attack this lure.

Fishing from the bow of our small Lund, I could sense the big-ass Rapala whipping behind my head each time JT brought his rod back to cast. 

“Dude, take it easy back there?” I yelled. “You’re gonna get me in the neck with that thing!”

“Don’t be a wuss, Mike,” JT replied, rolIing his eyes.

On his next cast, three hooks buried in my upper back.

As I exhausted my vocabulary of foul language, JT started the outboard and sheepishly captained us back to camp. 

Once situated in the main cabin, the old man who ran the place examined the hooks in my back with the camp chef. She was young and strong, and in addition to her chef duties, was a firefighter and EMT. 

“We’re gonna have to cut ‘em, but I can’t stitch ‘em,” she said.

“I don’t think we need to cut him just yet,” the old man said with an air of experience and wisdom. “Get me wire cutters and monofilament, please. And a bottle of Crown.”

The chef brought everything as requested to the table. The old man took a swig of Crown and placed the bottle out of my reach. 

“Ok, are you ready?” he asked, slapping my back before a brief pep talk. “We’re gonna pop these suckers out of your back alright, eh?” 

I looked longingly at the bottle of Crown. 

“Oh you want some of that do ya?” he chuckled, and slid the bottle over to me. I took a few swigs while a small crowd of fishermen and camp employees gathered. Feeling ready, I laid my head in my arms, face down on the table, and the old man got to work.

I felt pressure as the wire cutters tugged on each treble hook, splitting them until three single hooks remained. Next, he worked each hook with strands of mono, putting downward pressure on the barbs, while attempting to yank each one out. More a game of chance than a medical procedure, the old man failed many times before each hook came free.

On each failure, the crowd flinched in horror and amusement before gathering its composure ahead of the next attempt. When the old man was successful, his arms flailed, the hook went flying, and the small crowd erupted in cheers. 

On the final successful extraction, I jumped from my seat, shirtless and drunk, and quickly located JT amidst the group. I tackled him to the floor, and beat his ass in brotherly fashion. The crowd was amused, but the show had come to an end.

With plenty of daylight left in the long summer evening, we got back on the water to fish and drink until dark.

After we tied up the boat, I began stumbling to my cabin. Stepping onto dry land, I felt a presence looming. Something even darker than the night was nearby in the tall weeds at the water’s edge. With rational thought muted by whiskey and beer, I stepped closer to the darkness until I realized it was a black bear. The bear was sitting on its ass, licking and eating weeds covered in fry oil that was dumped a few days earlier. 

“Hey JT check it out man, a b-” I was cut short by a tug on my neck as JT grabbed my collar from behind, yanking me away from the omnivore. We hustled back to the cabin without further incident, where I promptly passed out. We were now even.

From the FE Films Archive

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