It was a scene of pure agony. And of eventual ecstasy.
Parked along a dark riverbank one night many years back, friends and I had just settled in for what was sure to be an epic evening chasing channel cats. Everything was right—new moon, warm southerly breeze, baitfish flipping in the shallows—until a singular sudden event turned everything, well, weird.
Propped on a flimsy forked stick, my brand new Ugly Stick seemed ready for action. Meanwhile, as we kicked back on the dewy grass, swapping stories, a sudden strange clink-zzt-splash! brought our flashlight beams sharply to bear on our forked sticks. Sickeningly, I noticed mine was folded over in the sand, and no longer clutched its rod. No!!!
I was soon groping along, feeling for glass and graphite in the muddy shallows, on the verge of diving into the drink, when Keith’s rod thumped twice, and started to jump. Just before his combo nearly launched lakeside, too, Keith snatched it up and threw a deep arc into the blank. “Man, there’s a lot of weight here,” I recall him remarking. “Feels big, but . . . sort of weird.”
Soon enough, standing there in a foot of water, I was amazed when a colossal channel cat rolled into the net, three lines protruding mysteriously from its muscular jaws. Keith extracted his hook first, before going to work on a second, which looked oddly familiar. Rigs, line and sinkers seemed to be coming from all directions. And upon removing the second hook and rig, we realized it had to be mine. So retrieving the line hand-over-hand, I soon clutched a rod tip and then, amazingly, the whole recognizable outfit was back in my muddy paws. Yes!!!
As Keith reveled in his big catfish catch, and I in my recaptured Ugly Stik, our buddy Matt had managed to grapple the third line and now held in his hands a very expensive—and more or less mint—rod and reel combo, which was attached to a still-intact plastic worm. “That’s one hungry fish,” someone remarked. And for the next hour, we laughed like 5-year-olds.
Never caught another catfish that night. But it didn’t matter. The outing would live on in our minds and memories, forever—Attack of the Cat Burglar, and fortunes lost, restored and then some.
Here’s hoping you’ll hang on to your favorite catfish rods tight, next time the catfish burglar comes a callin’.