National Federation of the Blind
2010 VIP (Visually Impaired People) Fishing Derby
By Chris Kuell
Sunday, May 16th. 5:58 a.m.-too
early for a Sunday. Enjoy Salsa omelet, bagel, brush teeth, throw ice
in cooler and go.
Ronnie, my neighbor Cindy's
pseudo-boyfriend, seems irked that I'm late. It's 7:05 a.m. Theo, Ronnie's
eight-year-old son, gets the front seat.
Over to Galobek-land in no
time, we change vehicles to Al's radio-less van. We find Sage Pond Park
in Berlin with no difficulty. Right on time. Thank you Lord.
Meet Nancy, from Rhode Island.
She's my sighted assistant for the day, although I won't know that until
the van ride home. I just thought she was a nice lady who probably had
a thing for Al.
Say hello to Beth and Charlie,
Justin Salisbury and his dad. Justin says he's an experienced fisherman.
Oh boy-I'm in trouble. Unbelievable sunshine and me with no sunscreen.
Helping my dermatologist pay off that condo in Vale. Must use their poles
and bait. No bobber, just a weight and these little pink and yellow balls
for bait. Stocked pond. Judged by inches of fish caught. First, second
and third place get a free trip to the Lions Club National VIP Fishing
Derby in North Carolina this October. Sweet.
9:05 and Al pulls in the first
fish of the day. An Eleven-and-a-half inch rainbow trout-and we're off.
Justin across the way catches a twelve-incher and gives it to us because
Ronnie wants to keep them for eating. 9:40 and I think I got a bite. Or
more likely, a stick.
We move at ten o'clock to try
another spot. While we are moving, a snapping turtle the size of a dinner
plate comes in to where our (well, Al and Justin's) fish were tethered
on a line, and eats one. Theo starts speaking in tongues he's so excited
about the ghastly incident. I stand out on a rock and cast maybe 100 times
before we move again.
Ronnie searches frantically
for a better spot. After a few more fruitless casts we return to the rock
spot we'd fished before and Ronnie asks another contestant if he's sure
we can't try worms. We can't. Five minutes later, I've got a fish. It
puts up a little fight, but not as much as I would expect for a big one.
Yet, it turns out to be an eleven-and-a-half incher. Theo, who has adopted
the position of net boy, helps secure the fish. Ronnie performs a radical
tracheotomy on the trout in order to retrieve my hook. I've caught a fish.
Thank you Jesus.
Brian Sigman from BESB comes
over to chat, which is nice, but I'm focused on angling more fish. Three-minutes
later, I catch another trout. Thank you Elvis. It's slimy and muscular--a
fifteen-inch rainbow, and must have put me close to the top of the leader-board.
I think to myself that if I catch another fish, I'll give it to Al.
A quarter hour goes by without
a hit. Nobody else seems to be catching anything, either. I hear people
talking about never catching fish in the heat of the day. We move back
to near our original spot. Bam-Al catches a twelve-incher. Bam-he catches
another, this one twelve -and-a-half. At 11:40 I get a nibble, give the
pole a quick tug and I've got one. Fights about the same as the other
two, but it's only a seven inch sunny. After measuring, Ronnie stuns the
sunny, then throws it out to the snapping turtle, who apparently ate it
in two-bites. Theo did a back flip and wet his pants he was so excited.
The volunteer who kept track of the competitor's catches whispers to us
that Al and I are in first and second place. Theo runs around chanting,
"We're goin' to North Carolina!" in a not-so-bad imitation of
a Carolina lilt.
Frantically I cast, wanting
to assure our victory with another fish. The whistle blows and all poles
are called in.
I ate a hamburger, 2 hot dogs,
a bag of chips and a peanut-butter thingee Nancy made that shot my blood
sugar straight over 600. Ronnie went to the van to get my cooler of liquid
The scorekeeper comes over
to me as I'm shooting up with insulin and whispers that she made a mistake,
and a girl named Lexi was first. No problem. First three places are going
First place indeed goes to
Lexi, a fifteen-year-old high school student from Bristol with fifty inches
of fish. Holy guacamole. Fifty inches. She also won a trophy for the biggest
fish, at fifteen-and-a-half inches. A mere half-inch bigger than mine.
Second place went to Allan
at 36 inches. Third place went to a guy named Larry from New Milford at
34 inches. Once again, I was a half-inch shy.
Ronnie lead me off in the woods
to commune with nature, then didn't wait for me so I had to bushwhack
my way back to the group. Lots of hugging and thanking and see-you-next-yearing.
We left with a stringer of fish, full bellies, and a morning's worth of
solar and fishing therapy. Not a bad catch at all.
For information about the Connecticut Lions VIP Fishing Derby, call Bob Christensen at 860-680-7227
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|Updated January 31, 2011|