The National Federation of the Blind
of Connecticut
Impressions: 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 Bob Christensen from the Berlin Lions Club, the sponsors of today's event. Really nice guy, everything during the day runs smoothly.

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.
The derby will end at 11:45. It's five minutes to eleven, people are catching fish left and right, but I've got nothing but a sunburn. Ronnie runs to his tackle box to get some sort of fish love-scent to spray on our bait. It doesn't help.

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 refreshments.

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 to national-right?

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