- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Turning our backs on the band playing Adios, Mariquita Linda and the girls in from the country waiting to tango, we went to inspect it.
The plug was vast, in three sections, painted to resemble a young pike, about 12" overall. It was a magnificent gesture rather than a plug, and later when Haggar tried it out on the Lily Pools, it fought on the retrieve like a fair-sized rainbow trout. Also, he needed a surf-rod to cast it. But the fact that he had lovingly fashioned it in camp after exhausting days out on the firing range proved his fitness for the quest.
Devan Preece was not there that night. He was also doing his stint in the artillery, but he had no weekend pass. Lindenburgh implied that he was not as sure of Preece's dedication as he was of Haggar's. Sometimes, when it had looked to be a good Green Devil day, he had shown his colors by going duck shooting. All the same, though, he was a member of the group.
And now it seemed that I had been recruited also.
"Devan will be home for Christmas," Lindenburgh said later that night as we stood in the fish-and-chip shop on Main Street, which had run out of fish, "but it could be all over by then." The Green Devil campaign, he meant. We ate our way steadily through a dozen sausages deep-fried in batter, the only substitute for fish that the shop could offer. "You make it next weekend?" he asked.
Well, certainly I could.
That was, I suppose, sometime in October, and through the early winter up until Christmastime, Lindenburgh and I spent most Saturdays and Sundays on the Lily Pools. Not all of those trips were expended on hunting the Green Devil. Normally we would start at the Eight-Arch Bridge, give him an hour or so and then wander off along the shore, reserving the last hour of the day for another shot.
Not once did we see him, but we had other, smaller victories. The far end of the middle finger of the lake was the most inaccessible part of it, because no boats were permitted. There were Sleeping Beauty thickets of bramble and thorn trees along much of the bank, and eventually the lake petered out into shallows, marked by twisted and whitened dead trees on which pale green lichen grew.
One Sunday we forced our way almost to the end of it, where the lake was very narrow. I tossed the floating green plug I was using (the toothbrush handles had been vetoed on sight by Lindy) into a sparse growth of spiky yellow reeds that lined the far bank, and it was engulfed almost immediately in a heavy boil. That fish crashed the thorn bushes twice on my side, but each time, as I prodded with the gaff handle to scare it, it shot out into open water again. In the end Lindy was able to lift it out, the gaff nicked under the point of the lower jaw so that it could be released again. Eighteen and a half pounds. "That is a pike" said Lindy.
That would really have been enough for one day, but just before it was time to leave for the ritual cast at the Green Devil, there came a wild yell from Lindy. The first thing he noticed, he said afterward, was a kind of dry rustling in the reeds. I was there in time to see what followed. Swimming slowly, unalarmed, out of the reed bed at his feet came a procession of pike. There were eight or nine of them, the smallest perhaps 10 pounds. Not one of the three leading fish, though, could have been much under 30 pounds.