Larry Parks half-fish

Jeff McQueen and Larry Sydow pose with their shared fish.

Sitting in the peace and quiet, for a few moments after breakfast is golden for me. Gazing out over Lazy Lake, just as the sun starts to send rays sparkling off its surface, and reflecting on a recent good time hooking, jump-starts my day.

My thoughts, on this occasion, were about Jeff McQueen and Larry Sydow, two of my gang of boys, who turned 60 this year. Remembering a recent trip, I characterize as old friends visiting in the shadow of the winds, brought back memories of 40 years ago in the marvelous world of sight wade fishing on Laguna Madre.

During those ensuing years, the three of us had not wet a hook together, although I had fished with each on several occasions. I had a feeling lots of trash-talking would be on the agenda, and sure enough, we hadn’t warmed up the seats good in Old Blue, my fishing truck, when some muttering and laughing about her age was mentioned. I felt maybe they were insinuating they may have ridden in her on those long trips south years ago. Of course, that was not the case at all, but it did remind me that the highlight of their day, on those rare times when their stringers were larger than mine, their bragging seem to set their lips into high gear. Somehow, I was sure old friends on a new adventure would not change anything, because picking at each other was always a big part of our pleasure, something that we all enjoy.

Our plans were for a short morning-only visit with our friends that live in the shadows of the waves because Sydow was emphatic that he had to quit at noon in order to attend a 3 p.m. business meeting. I’m Ready zipped us out to one of my honey hole fishing spots that filled our stringer on a recent trip. After quietly moving into position and polling down, the boys took a shiny new Abu Garcia rig out of the rod holder and took quick notice, with a big smile on their face that my reel was red and attached to an ancient-looking rod.

OK boys, settle down. The rod and reel both have a neat history.

The reel is a Garcia 6000 bought new just before our first trip to Port Mansfield in 1973 and used for a couple of years. It was cleaned, retired and put up to rest in a soft Crown Royal bag. It was soon forgotten until a few years ago. I had replaced it with Garcia’s 6500 fast retrieve reel that was excellent for plug fishing.

The rod, yes, it’s old as well, being one of Shakespeare’s first Ugly Stiks that has survived years of use. I paired them up a while back, and unless you have some more questions, it’s time to bait your hooks.

The tide was flat, and during the ensuing two hours, with little action, I was glad they didn’t look in my closet and find my old long-sleeve, big buttonhole, orange shirt that I often wore back in the day. Guess I would have to explain that old thing to them as well. By midmorning, all we had brought to boat was two rat reds and lots of crabs. It was time to relocate.

We settled in on a narrow channel lined with oyster shell. The boys had two hooks each upstream laying on I’m Ready’s deck as I decided to take a short rest, drink a Dr Pepper and observe. No bites for quite a long time during which they took another dig, thanking me for having a new boat, like I didn’t know what they meant. Suddenly, the air was filled with the scream of two clickers at the same time.

Now visualize this. I was looking at two grown men with years of fishing experience hooked up with what appears to be two really mad whopper-size redfish. Their only chance at freedom is to head for the shell and cut those ole boy’s lines. The scene quickly became very hectic, with both giving each other orders from headquarters. Verbalizations like “horse him,” “keep him off the shell” and “don’t let him get tangled with my line,” along with a few other comments from me about what to do, created a few moments of bedlam.

Well, Mr. Red gathered all four of their lines into a tangled mess before giving up along I’m Ready’s bow, wrapped in a wad of four rigs. Oops, there is only one fish; guess one got away and the debate about who it belonged to commenced. This story just keep getting better and better giving me more smack-talking ammunition to throw at them.

After a long period of untangling four rigs, they found a very hungry redfish with two hooks deep in his throat, one belonging to Larry and the other to Jeff. I assured them that I wouldn’t tell how it took both of them to land one-half fish each to our other fishing buddies, until at least five minutes after we get back to the docks. Sydow extended his time that allowed them to catch the rest of a strange limit of 2 1/2 fish. This got him out of helping clean the boat and fish.

I laughed until my sides hurt at these clowns and gave thanks for two old friends making my day.

Larry Parks of Lake Jackson is author of “Dancing with the Waves,” a collection of stories and people gathered from a lifetime of fishing, which is available for purchase at The Facts office.

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