Mrs. Lee Wulff (Joan), I believe, said fishing is a good test of character. A person’s reaction to adversity, especially cold, miserable weather; clearly demonstrates his or her dignity, humor, consideration and resolve. “If you can fish with someone, you can live with them.”
My wish for a spousal fishing partner developed years before I met Diane. As things turned out, I found in my wife what I had been seeking in my children. Someone to share the joy of fishing and perhaps later as my vision and dexterity fade, to help me tie small knots, locate fish and tend the boat. Fishing for Diane was a new aspect of life, particularly the places I took her – through black bear infested woods; up to her chest in the Montauk surf feeling like she was going to be swept out to sea; hanging on for dear life in a center console as we navigate a suddenly stormy Long Island Sound; and ducking bats on the Delaware River at dusk. Our friends were amazed. “Must be love.” Toby said. “He’s trying to drown you in a kayak instead of taking you on the QE2.” Carl “the professor” would constantly ask Diane, “Don’t you belong to any clubs, and don’t you have any girlfriends that fish?”
Although content to just be on the water, there was that fading memory of landing a 100-plus pound tarpon from the Gulf of Mexico. So Diane and I headed to the Florida Keys, rented a 19 foot center console and three weeks later, despite a badly bruised abdomen, the result of being battered by the rod butt while on the losing end of tarpon battles, I was down to my final at bat – the last day of our three week stay. Out of despair, I told my tale of woe to the local tackle shop owner whom I had avoided for three weeks. He said “you’re not going to land anything with that 3 foot leader. Some of those fish are over 9 feet long. They are jumping over your leader and breaking it off.”
He gave me what I needed and we went back to our temporary residence. I tied two 100-pound mason 9 foot leaders, stretched out over and across the French doors with two channel locks to straighten out the coil. The next morning, we headed out for the last day of our three week rental to bring a big tarpon to the boat.
As God is my witness, it is the last hour of the last day and I bang into a fish. I told Diane, this fish is coming to the boat no matter what. I’m working on the fish, and the camera is loaded with fresh film. I didn’t time how long it took to bring this fish in. Once I got him to the boat, I walked him to the starboard side, leaned over and removed the hook that was literally just hanging there. It was a perfect release – I did not take a scale – I just watched with pleasure as it swam away, knowing that I will have multiple pictures for memory.
Well here we are back in New York and three weeks have gone by, and no film. Nothing was dropped off. I knew something was wrong. So forcing the issue, the film was developed and picked up. There were six photos. One showed the tip of my hat, my elbow and the bent rod with a fish splash and that was the only one that included me. One though however, showed the big tarpon’s shadow against the 9-foot wide stern of the 19-foot center console, allowing us to estimate the fish at 9-feet in length and around 125 pounds. I said to my wife, “What the #&@% were you doing?” Her response at that time was the only thing she said that could have saved her life. “I never saw a fish that big in my life. I was watching – I was scared – I was a spectator in a little boat with this big fish.” Understood. I have my hook, six photos and my memory. I wouldn’t have it any other way.