Author’s note: Sometimes, when you have friends like mine, the stories write themselves. What follows is a series of actual texts between a group of my closest fishing buddies. I have edited the texts only when necessary to make them suitable for family audiences or to make them intelligible. I have also added the occasional commentary.
Dorman: “First annual Granby bluegill/pumpkinseed tournament!!!!! Here’s the rules. First rule: Fishing starts Sunday to Sunday. Second rule: Must submit two pictures. One full body picture with the fish. Second just fish and ruler. Third rule: Anyone in the family can submit the photo.
Family entry fee five dollars. Side prize Fish of the week. Photo entry voted on by all must be caught by one of the family members. And also must have a short story. Let me know if you are in for this week’s species.”
Note: Dorman has the least amount of time fishing with me. None of the other guys would have been dumb enough to challenge me to a contest that involves bluegills and pumpkinseeds, especially with money on the line. Put it this way: if there was a professional panfish tournament circuit, I’d be well sponsored. I was the first to respond:
Me: “Are we talking total number of fish? I could literally catch hundreds of bluegills and pumpkinseeds if I set out to do it. You want to receive hundreds of photos of me with fish?”
Dave: “I’m interested, but will be severely handicapped considering I’ll be [fishing] in saltwater for the next 5/7 days.”
Me: “Boo hoo.”
Dave: “[I] could lock up all prizes with one trip to secret pond X, but it may still be Covid restricted. I’ll check tonight. And no… quantity doesn’t count.”
John: “I’m in. I’m going to secret pond XXX.”
Note: This is a reference to the legend that, a few years back, someone had filmed scenes for a pornographic movie at a local pond. For the record, I have never fished that pond.
Ken: “I’m in.”
Me: “We’re going to need much more precise rules. Do we start at midnight this Sunday? End at 11:59 p.m. on the 7th? How do we verify when [the] fish was caught? Who will judge and issue rulings on disputes?”
Dorman: “Midnight Saturday.”
Me: “To be clear, one minute after 11:59pm, the 30th?”
Dorman: “Any of you[r] other friends or soccer player[s] want to work at stop & shop….?”
Note: Who knows what Dorman was talking about? He’s like the absent-minded professor. He never noticed that the text was clearly sent to the wrong group, and none of us pointed it out. I then sent a series of pictures of fish I caught in the Farmington River on the Friday before the contest started. There was a rainbow trout, a smallmouth bass and a largemouth bass.
Dave: “…I don’t see any qualifying catches.”
Me: “Contest hasn’t started. If all goes well, I’ll have set the bar by mid-morning Sunday.”
Dave: “Lake X and a few frisky crawlers is all [I’ll] need. It’s a lock.”
Ken: (on May 30, with a picture of a nice largemouth bass): “[Location deleted] was hot today. Out there 2 ½ hrs. 22 bass, 3 pickerel. Largest bass 1.9 [lbs]. Rest were average.”
Dave: (also on May 30, with a picture of fluke): “First keeper of the year.”
Me: (3:34 p.m. June 1, with a picture of a bluegill): “8.25 [inches] is the mark to beat.”
Dorman: “[Expletive] that’s nice. May be game over.
John: “LOL. Didn’t think you would throw in the towel so quickly there Dorman.”
Dorman: “Just a ploy to get Mark off the water.”
Me: (a few minutes later): “This one is a shade bigger. 8.3 is the new mark.”
Me: (7:09 p.m.): “I’m calling this one 8.4.”
John: “You have to come in for dinner now….”
Dave: “I’ll be at Pond X for the next few nights. I like my chances against those respectable entries. Not sure if I’ve got the ‘fro beat though… I’m not getting my hair cut until my man bun comes in.”
Note: The “fro” reference is to my unkempt appearance. I have not cut my hair or shaved since kids were sent home from school because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Dave: (evening, June 2) “Hitting the Farmington tonight with the fly rod – I’m told it’s hot right at dusk.”
Dave: “I’m going to start at [location deleted] and walk upstream (I think). Not sure – going to try to tuck in out of the wind somewhere.”
Me: “Good! No bluegills in that stretch. Btw: I was looking again at the pictures I sent yesterday. I was reading the ruler wrong. The largest one I’ve caught so far is just shy of 8.75. You boys got work to do.”
Dave: “I might need to file an extension – trout tonight, bass tomorrow.”
Me: (afternoon of June 3, with pictures of a very big bluegill) “9.0 is the new mark.”
Dorman: “Monster. At the half way point Mark F is in the lead and Ken looks like he may have the fish of the week. With Dave a close second for fish of the week on the first keeper. John and Dorman no fish on the board yet.”
Me: “What? The fish of the week doesn’t need to be a bluegill?”
Dorman: (a few minutes later): “Wait a minute, was Ken’s fish caught on Saturday or Sunday that might move Dave into the lead for [fish of] the week.”
Dorman (a few more minutes later): “Same with Dave’s first keeper that looks like a Saturday fish. That leaves Mark Fiorentino with both prizes.”
John: “Has anyone been out fishing besides MF?”
Me: “Dave and Ken have. I fished with both. I suspect Dorman has fished every day, but will claim that he’s been busy….”
Dorman: “The money is for the species bluegill and fish the week can be anything.”
Me: “I told you the rules were ambiguous.”
Dorman: “I mailed out the official rules it’s a 30-page document should be at your house anytime you might want to proofread it. Typical lawyer.”
Me (with a picture of me holding the “monster” bluegill): “Doesn’t matter. How you gonna’ beat this as fish of the week. It’s bigger than my head, even with all the extra hair.”
Dorman: “[You do] have a very small head.”
Dave: “[Expletive] Dorman and his rules! I thought my Saturday fish was grandfathered! Now you’ve gone and done it – I’m going to have to beat Mark F at his own game. Pond X, here I come.
And Mark is such a giver, he even offered up a hot tip for weeding out mere 8 inchers. All I need is this storm to hold off for just a little while….”
John: “Grandfathered – why? You’re funny.”
Dave: “Just because, that’s why.”
Me (with a picture of me in my new fishing hat): “My new ‘Shelta’ hat.”
John: “Hey little buddy….”
Dave: “[Don’t go out in public] – they’ll think the Unabomber broke out.”
Me (afternoon, June 6, with a picture of a red breast sunfish): “Bonus points for the relatively elusive red breasted sunfish?”
John: “Fish of the week?”
Dorman (June 7, 7:50 a.m.): “Mark Fiorentino destroyed us this week he out fished us all. The money goes to Mark with my vote [for the red breast sunfish as] fish of the week….”
Note: No one protested that Dorman was declaring a winner with 16 hours left in the tournament.
Me: “Thank you, gentlemen. It’s an honor. Dave has already paid me his $5. The rest of you: pony up….”
Ken: “I saw no real competition so I had set $5 aside for you yesterday.”
John: “MF, should I make the check payable to you directly, or your favorite charity?”
Me: “The ‘Let’s Get Mark A Haircut’ fund would be acceptable.”