Lake Fork in Texas, just a ways east of Dallas, was our destination. At one time, maybe a decade or more ago, Lake Fork was the hottest bass lake in the country. Lunkers, monsters, hawgs, whatever you want to call big fish, were coming out of Fork in numbers that would make anyone with a fishing pole drool. I had never fished that lake so when Arnold called me with the proposal to spend four days there, I accepted knowing full well that there would be some mishaps, some incidents, possibly life threatening, but the temptation to catch a trophy fish, a wall-hanger, overcame my fears.
Halfway through the first morning and having caught only a couple fish not much bigger than our bait, the boat began to emit a long beeeeep sound, an alarm. The same thing had happened with the boat on my last trip with Arnold but was thought to be a low oil warning. The addition of a few pints of oil seemed to have cleared the condition. We checked the oil level, the reservoir was full. Not the problem. We make a phone call to Tulsa to son Mark. Check the Internet we say and see what a long beep means on a Mercury outboard. Arnold had a motor manual but it was back at the house for safe keeping. Turns out it's a heat warning, the motor was getting hot. Not good. We make it back to the dock, haul the boat to the nearest repair facility where the mechanic tells us that the problem is most likely the impeller in the water pump. He would be happy to fix it for $140 he says. We have little choice but to agree to the pirate's terms and make him happy.
Now you would think such a setback would be enough drama for one trip but when you're fishing with Arnold, the adventure has only just begun. While sipping a wee bit of bourbon that evening with the newly repaired motor and boat parked at the lodge, we decided it would be a great idea to hire a guide, if only for a half day, to show us a few hot spots, the honey holes, where we could later return in search of Ol' Grandad Bass. Arnold makes a few calls and finds a local guide to take us out the very next morning. The guide, a lady guide as it turns out, will meet us at a place called The Minnow Bucket at 6:30 sharp. Arnold tells her where he's calling from, or so he thinks, and learns the meeting spot is just down the road from the public boat ramp. Do we drive to the designated rendezvous and confirm the location? No.
At 5:00 a.m. we are up and drinking coffee, excited at the prospects of the day, when Arnold is hit with a sudden attack of diarrhea. We leave the lodge at 6:15. It's still quite dark and to complicate matters, a thick fog blanketed the roads. At 6:40 we are still looking for The Minnow Bucket. Turns out there are many, many, public boat ramps on Lake Fork. Finally we find a convenience store with the lights on and learn that the Minnow Bucket, another convenience store, is at least ten miles from the place where we sit. Luckily our guide, sweet, understanding lady that she was and having dealt with fishermen of our type in the past, was waiting for us with a smile on her face. But despite the professional help, nary a lunker was landed.
Other noteworthy incidents during the trip were the time when Arnold noticed the boat was almost out of gas when we were miles from the ramp. (We made it back on fumes.) I made my own contribution to the weekend by driving the boat over a few submerged rocks, making a neat little ding in the very expensive, stainless steel prop. Arnold mumbled something about how he would have to get it all straightened out before the out-of-balance prop destroyed some sort of seal thingy in the innards of the motor. Arnold, the rocks were UNDERWATER, how was I to know? Sure I was quite close to the bank with similar rocks, quite large ones actually and yes they were quite conspicuous but again, who knew?
With no luck catching any fish to brag about, we decided to forego fishing on the morning of departure. At seven o'clock I stepped outside the cabin to dark skies and thunder. Arnold, says I, we need to hook up to the boat before it rains. We did so, but before we could pack our gear and suitcases, the skies opened up. It was like the proverbial cow urinating on the flat rock. We waited for it to let up, and waited, and waited. Several cows and several flat rocks later, we decided to make a dash for it. We used garbage bags to protect our duffels and my camera gear and ran to the truck only to find that the windows were DOWN. Seems that Arnold had lowered them in order see better as he backed the truck up to the boat and forgot to put them up again. Two hours of downpour were in the cab. On the floor, in a pool of water only slightly smaller than Lake Fork, lay a digital camera (his) and a GPS unit (mine). Status of said instruments are unknown at this time. We sat on still more garbage bags for the trip back home while I made frequent comments on how a ruined GPS should cancel out a little ol' ding in a fancy prop.
At home, as I pulled my wet gear from the truck and piled it on my lawn to dry out, Arnold caught my eye.
"You wanna go again in the spring?"
"Oh hell yes. We'll slay em' next time."