Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Psychotropic Psightseeing!!!

The legend of the Psychotropic Trout is a unique one, this fish is a purely American creation formed from the wild and turbulent days of those Wild 1960s. A bi-product of the excesses and delirium that reigned back in the day that lives on as a reminder to remember that moderation is the key to slogging through this crazy world.

Back in the late 60s, somewhere out in the backwoods near Laramie and Cheyenne Wyoming there was a commune of semi-vegetarian, tie-dyed pot-smoking hippies that survived by selling shellacked pinecones from roadside stands and by playing free concerts with members of the commune appearing as The Raspberry Porkchop. The Porkchop played long, meandering trippy numbers and their light guy, Snorky FunkFuzz was famous for his psychedelic lightshows. Needless to say, folks were tripping their little furry heads off during these things and skinny dipping in the cold mountain ponds was a a way of “taking the edge off” some of the strong stuff they were ingesting. 

Legend has it that during one such concert a guy from California who called himself Professor Propylene showed up with some acid he called Cosmic Microbus that blew everyone to kingdom come. Himself included. Apparently the Professor kept his stash in a little satchel he tied around his neck and, forgetting to take it off with the rest of his party rags, jumped into the pond with a whole satchel-full of ‘cid. The band played on, the folks freaked all night and by noon the next day everyone had wandered off into parts unknown and the concert was nothing but a dream. Excepting the trout that lived in that pond. Those fish were never the same and their progeny still swim in the high-mountain lakes and streams of this area. A place I’ve always wanted to visit.  The fish are the most gorgeous colors of tie-dye and I wanted to see one up close…but I’ve been told: beware! Don’t eat ‘em!!

I found my guide, Bison Bill and his son Goat in a cabin near Vidauwoo. Bill has been living up that way for eons and he remembers the days of the Raspberry Porkchop well…maybe too well. He knew exactly where to go, so I flew out to Cheyenne, rented a truck and headed out to meet this hairy behemoth of the bacchanal. By nightfall, we’d found our site, set up camp and made a short hike to a nearby lake. There they were, swimming in the moonlight, glowing…making lazy circles in the crystal clear water. Giggling, Bill reached in and grabbed one as easy as picking up an apple. It was really something else.

We had some fun catching a few with Goat and I was fascinated. I probably should have paid more attention but the scientist in me swept me back to the tent with a specimen to measure, dissect and perform some tests on. I was careful not to touch my hands to my mouth as I was doing this as the fish is said to carry a strong  hallucinogenic and I didn’t want to screw my notes up. I should have been paying attention to my friends outside. Before I knew it, things were starting to sound pretty weird. The two of them were giggling like maniacs around the fire and the smell of frying fish filled the air. I put my things down and grabbed a flask to go see what was going on. The fish weren’t the only things that were frying.

Things got pretty strange from there on out. I sat and listened to the two of them jabbering about the sun, moon and stars, tiny universes that lived in our fingernails and other space-cadet stuff, had a couple drinks and ate a can of beanie-weenies. I figured I’d better turn in when they started dancing around the fire and making animal-like snorts while hiking their pants up real high and holding their fingers above their heads like little horns. It was getting embarrassing.

I awoke to a gorgeous, quiet morning. Snores emanated from their tents and I grabbed my tackle and headed for the lake to see if I could snag me a cutthroat or a brown using a Tufted Jake. I had a good hour of fishing and was headed back to fry me up a breakfast when Goat stumbled out of his tent. Uhhh….

The ride back home was sort of uncomfortable. We didn’t talk much and when I hopped into my truck and headed back to Cheyenne with my notes, I was left with nothing more than a grunt or two from my weary space-travelers. Farewell you freakies….Long may you  live! Crazy sumbitches!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Yin Meets Yang

We'd spent a few days enjoying the scenery around the Shang-bah Monastery, hangin' with the monks when we started to get a feeling they were trying to tell us something. Our guide had left us for a few days to visit some relatives in Poo-Tahn (apparently there was some sort of oyster-fest going on there) and none of us could speak Chinese so, we were doing a lot of head-scratching and trying to figure out what the hell was so important. It obviously had to do with the catfish and the guys kept drawing a yin-yang symbol in the sand along with two fish. Then, they'd draw a line between the two fish and their eyes would get big and they'd jabber on about something very excitedly. I was wishing the guide would get back so we could figure out what was up and talk about it over a drink (I'd told him to grab some beer when he was back in town).

Well, finally he shows up, looking a little worse for the wear and smelling of some rather strange perfume. I quickly retrieved the beer from him and slammed a couple. I didn't care how warm they were, all this monk-jabbering was getting on my nerves! We got the guy unpacked and settled in and told him to have a listen to the yin-yang story. This is where things got interesting: Legend says (according to the monks) that things have been haywire in the world since the companion catfish to this one at the monastery had croaked....and that they'd been searching the hills of China for years, looking for another Red Whiskered Ridgeback to "Marry" this one here. If they did that all would be well in the world, peace would reign, guns would be tossed away, yadda-yadda. Well, they figured that I might just be the guy who knew of another such fish and... you know what? They were right. These monks don't monkey around. So, I grabbed our map and found Xishuangbanna, the place where my grandfather passed away into the great adventure in the sky and the home of the only (until now) known Red Whiskered Ridgeback. It was a hike for sure but not impossible, so we grabbed our gear and headed out. The head-monk and his successor plus a couple others accompanied us and carried the Holy Golden Bucket to transport the fish back home.

The jungles were mostly bamboo and the hills were steep but the old guy led the way like he was walking to the corner for a pack of smokes. Our guide would respectfully "suggest" a right or left turn now and then because the old guy was using "The Force" or something to guide him and his bearings were a little skewed. The country was gorgeous, vistas opened up now and then, raging rivers ran below deep cliffs and placid waterfalls fed glistening lakes. The monks stopped at one very holy waterfall (the name escapes me... Moo-Shoo?) and I couldn't help myself. In went my line! I was using a Hedrick's Hellza-Popper and you can't go wrong with that. If anything so much as drifts past that lure, it's curtains for him. Those hooks are inescapable and before I knew it, I'd snagged a Salmo Trutta: an Asian variety of the Brown Trout. One of the younger monks was very interested in my gear and I showed him a trick or two.

After three days, the terrain began to change dramatically. It looked almost as if the place had been landscaped, it was gorgeous..magical. Eventually we heard the sound of a waterfall and things started looking eerily familiar. Yes, this was the place where I'd said goodbye to the Old Man. This was the mystical home of Kyong Foi, the Red-Whiskered Ridgeback Catfish. We searched the small pond, the monks chanting prayers and clanging tiny cymbals. The head-monk and his successor prayed into the Holy Golden Bucket by the side of the pond and, as tears fell from the old man's eyes into the bucket, there in the pond next to them appeared Kyong Foi, as if to say "Take me. I'm ready to go."

The fish glowed brightly as the old monk slipped his hand into the water and gently cradled the thing. The younger monk slipped the Holy Golden Bucket into the pond and the fish glided in, simple as that.

All was to be well in the world. I laid some flowers at the spot where the Mighty Gill McFinn left this world, said a few words to the man who changed my life forever and we slipped back into the forest, heading home.

Friday, April 12, 2013

HOLY Catfish!!!

Last week we received the some big news. Someone had reported spotting a Red-Whiskered Ridgeback Catfish in a far-off location deep within China! Now, if you're familiar with the story of this fish, there's only supposed to be ONE in existence. As a matter of fact, my Grandfather, the great Gill McFinn (the first) passed away beside the pond that was home to this most holy of fish. Needless to say, we were excited! Being excited and getting your butt from wherever you are to the depths of China is one thing. We net off anyway.

During customs we were met by a surly Agent who had no love for Westerners and things were looking grim. Officer Wahh was a mean son-of-a-gun and it looked like this might be the end until Veronica opened her jacket and smiled at the stern fellow, blinking those eyes of hers. It takes a heart of steel to resist Veronica when she puts the spell on you. So, in nothing flat, we're back on the trail!

Our guide took us the the great mountains of Lower Foobang Province and deep into the hill country in search of the Shang-bah Monastery. Reports had said that the monks there had the fish within their walls and had been worshipping it since the early 1800's unbeknownst to anyone. They were feeding it blessed rice and pouring wine into it's pond for years and years, keeping the thing happy. These fish are otherworldly..almost alien, spirit-like. We spotted the monastery high upon a hill and my heart leapt!

Climbing these hills was rugged. We typically sent Runt scrambling ahead like some crazed hairless ape and had him lift us by rope to each ledge. He never tires, that little booger! In a day and a half we were knocking at the gates of the place, exhausted but excited. I had to rap Runt on the noggin a few times to get it into his head to behave among the holy men inside. We put Veronica in a cloaked hood so we didn't cause any "trouble" ..these guys haven't seen a dame in a loooong time! They greeted us warmly and let us in, guiding us to the magical pond. if the reports weren't correct. There the thing was, gliding through the water with an unearthly glow surrounding it. A sense of peace came over all of us.

It was magical. As we were snapping photos, one of the monks relayed a story to us about there being TWO fish originally but a misguided monk had lost control and caught and eaten the other fish long ago. Legend has it that he said it tasted something like chicken as he chewed on the fish and then he slowly began to glow brighter and brighter until he vanished in a flash of light. Nobody messes with that stuff anymore. These guys are serious about their catfish!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Making Mom Happy

Well Dave "Poopypants" Hansen managed to tick Mom off pretty well this weekend. I guess she'd stashed some cans of smoked oysters and a couple cigars back in the galley and he got into them. He smoked one of her cigars and fed the oysters to his cat. Nobody'll touch those nasty, canned boogers but Mom herself. I guess Dave figured the cat would go for them. God knows there's enough seafood on this crate to make a cat so fat it'd make a good sideshow attraction but that's Dave... always thinking. When Mom found out her stogie and oysters were missing, she raised holy hell and dragged us all on deck where she started into drilling us pretty good. She learned some nasty trick from the Japanese back in WWII where you pull up your pants legs and kneel on uncooked rice until you start to talk. It's very uncomfortable to say the least after an hour or two and thank god Dave finally cracked.

We were anchored off of the island volcano Pangatutu and had been enjoying the sun and sea until this all hit the fan. After the interrogation, I went back to trying to hook me a Patagonian Hornfish with my old Little Devil and was having no luck (funny...I never do with that damned lure) and the rest of the crew were licking their wounds as Mom chewed Dave two new bung-holes and made him swear up and down that he'd make up for the snagged stogie somehow (we were trying hard to avert our eyes, it hurts to see a grown man cry like that). I was wondering what he'd come up with. I knew it wasn't going to be good.

In a half an hour I heard a splash and saw that Dave and one of his brothers were in the drink, snorkeling around for something.

The water here is gorgeous and crystal clear, not too deep and full of all sorts of who-knows-what. Great place to dive and snorkel. You never know what lurks below: treasure or terror...or both! Apparently Dave found the "both" option as he noticed a gleam from down below. Taking a deep breath, down he went and sure enough, there was the biggest damned pearl he'd ever seen, resting on the fat tongue of a giant clam, opened up and blowing sand. Down Dave dived and damned if he didn't almost die. As soon as he'd grabbed that thing, the clam snapped shut, tighter than tupperware! Dave's brother, thinking quickly (as all Hansen's do) stayed above and snapped photos.

Let me tell you, sometimes a curse can be a blessing. Old "Poopypants" must have tasted like, well...crap. That clam spit him out faster than a vegetarian eating a hot dog ! Good thing he had a death-grip on that pearl. She's a beauty.... and I guess "Poopypants" is off the sh*t list for now!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Landing the first Snogfish

The legend of the Snogfish goes like this: "Many Lake Erie fishermen have found themselves being fished out of the water after their first encounter with the Snogfish. Even those who’ve had a fair warning are unprepared for the ear-piercing scream they are met with when that red head pops out of the water as the Snogfish fights for its life. The experience is truly an unforgettable one. Locals are fond of taking unsuspecting guests fishing in the hopes that the poor sap pulls a “Snogger” and finds himself head over heels in the drink. A lesser-known behavior of the Snogfish is its habit of moaning below the ice during winter nights. On the cold, frozen shores of Lake Erie one can hear a plaintive wail emanating from the depths across the inky-black, frozen lake. The effect is…eerie."

An interesting tale for sure but what it doesn't tell you is the hard work that went into the first discovery of the fish. It was the coldest winter in record when my grandfather and his crew set out across the frozen lake. His old fishing pal "Pirate Pete" was along for the trip along with Mike "The Hammer" Harmon with his tools and building equipment. The plan was to set out and drill a hole in the ice, set a microphone into the water and try to determine the location of the moaning denizens of the deep. What they didn't know was that the Golden Eagles of Erie were nesting in that area and were on the lookout for intruders. Poor Pete found that out at a whiz-stop about a half an hour into the trip (apparently this was sort of an issue with Pete in his advanced age..there were many, many "whiz-stops" whatever the trip) and he was brutally attacked when zipping up his "barn door "  before his "horsey" got back in. I don't know what hurt more, the eagles talons of that zipper lock  on Pete's pecker .

But, it was too late to stop now, Pete beat that thing off and they put the jalopy in high gear and got out of there. By that afternoon they were out of the eagle's territory and intently listening to the deep waters and the Snoggers below. By early evening Mike had the hut up over the hole in the ice, the wood stove was stocked and they were sending their lines down  and having a couple of cold beers.

The problem was, old Pete couldn't take the heat. The warmth of the cabin was causing a swelling in his wounded  wiener and before long he was wailing as loud as the  damned Snogfish.  The poor guy eventually opted for a seat in the cold,  dangled his dingus in bucket of cold water. drilled himself a hole  in the ice and settled down to try his hand at the line. He had a bottle of brandy to warm him and Gill and Mike made regular trips out to check on the poor old guy with a hot cup of coffee.  Pete was miserable and it was the longest night he'd had in a long time and that's saying a lot considering he hadn't had a good nights sleep in the past 50 years.  He was just too damned ugly to sleep.

Well, isn't that just how luck works? One day, you could be the unluckiest son of a bitch on the planet and the next day, you're the golden boy. At about   8 the next morning Gill and Mike were blown out of their galoshes with a racket that shook the shed. Outside, Pete had landed a snogfish and it was screaming like a damned freight train..and so was Pete! I don't know who was louder but I know one thing, I'll bet Pete forgot all about his poor peter when he pulled that snogger out of the snow!