For years, Mitch had talked about his family retreat in the top of Vermont that was the big ..annual ..get-together for all the Mitch Miles Clan. This occurred when he was a kid and the fact that he was now 40 didn’t seem to fade the memories of those cherished times. Mitch was not really a fisherman but he wanted to take Ron and I there to catch some Pike…after all they were there 30 yrs ago!!!! Ron and I knew that this trip would mean a lot to Ol Mitch and so we agreed to make it a fishing adventure…to Lake Carmi….home of Mitch's childhood memories of big toothy critters….The Pike.
Ah yes…a July 4th get away with my two buddies……..Mitch's boat….tons of fishing gear and enough liquor stores to quench our unending thirst back then. It would be a long ride to get to the tippy top of Vermont…but comradery and good cheer would make the whole weekend…PERFECT. Unfortunately ,sometimes it takes a little more than just that to assure success on fishing extravaganzas….and we were about to find out the difference between fantastic and fiasco.
I was praying that Mitch would not decide to tow the huge fiberglass boat on the back of his 77 caddy. Since that was the only car running at this point…it was apparent that the clunker would lead the way….with boat in tow..over the green mountains. I was hoping that at least the dam thing would make it. Hope does not always offer assurance!!!
The caddy ....1977....is worth mentioning again. The brakes were far beyond their safe level and the fact that he was towing this god awful heavy boat...a fiberglass Maxim, was reason enough for Ron and I to ride in his blazer. This "Vermont or bust " routine by ol Mitch was gonna be a solo voyage for him....We would meet him there............maybe!!. The radio's reception was all dependent on the direction of the coat hanger he had rammed down the shaft of the old antenna slot. I am not going into much detail about how it over heated ,other than the fact that if he didn't drive with the heater on full blast (its July 4th)...the car would over heat and blow up. The inside of the caddy smelled like burning sneakers from the heater blowing on his footwear. Oh yes...."that leak in the trailer tire is only a slow leak mike...couple of fillups and it will be fine....don't be so uptight" The clincher was when he thought it was funny at a rest stop to show us how he can pull the steering wheel off and then put it back on. GOD HELP US. And finally....what would a 7 hr ride with a boat in tow be without a good set of worn tires all around for the limping caddy. The stuff was packed and we were heading north...Mitch leading the way and Ron and I following to help him ....WHEN!!...he breaks down.
We had driven 5 of the 350 miles and he pulls over. Mitch ..what's wrong??....Nothing, its a liquor store. lets load up. He was inside before I said "no lets wait". By the time I got in the beer house, he had a case of bud and a bottle of Jack Daniels on the counter. "This is gonna be ugly", was the unspoken word between Ron and I as we watched it get rung up. Its on me boys...Well thanks Mitch...lets go fill the cooler. While we were packing the cooler Mitch proceeds to announce....."well that's it for me...I'm broke ..I just spent my last dollar!!!" I asked him how he planned on surviving for the next 4 days ...."It will all work out....ill eat the fish!!!!!" Have you ever eaten a pike!!...BONES. Five miles into the trip Mitch is broke. I'm sure you can see where this is headed. Ron and I checked our wallets twice. We would need every cent we had.....and eventually, we did! But its a fishing trip...so ALL for one and one for All....Lets go get those pike. The visible stream of exhaust from Mitch's tailpipe signified ..On The Road Again. Ron and I were quiet for a bit. Finally I said "Ron....this one could be a Fiasco". He did not need to reply.
The beautiful mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire began to give me the ting in tingles. I was starting to look forward to some real north country pike fishing. It was probably our third set of inclines and Mitch's flasher told us ..pee stop ...or worse. The power window on the drivers side only went down part way , so I directed my question toward the open slot. Whats up Mitch? "She. is overheating on these hills....I'm going to go over and take rt 91 north to avoid the mountains.....but you guys go ahead and enjoy the ride" We cant do that ..what if something happens to the car?. I felt like saying...WHEN something happens to the car!. Ron became irritated and asked if he should tow the boat with his Blazer. Mitch insisted all was just JIM DANDY. Off to 91 went Mitchy and through the green mountains went the somewhat sane duo. Believe it or not, we got there, and there really was such a place!... With the muffler roaring in the distance, he got there also. Lake Carmi Campgrounds....we made it up...all seemed well...maybe my Fiasco comment was a bit pre-mature, this could be ok.
The energy level picked up when we saw the water and we threw our gear in a heap and said...Lets go fishing. There wasn't a soul on the lake.....or in the campsite.....or apparently anywhere for miles. Lake Carmi is close to no where.
Backing the boat in was touchy. The launch area was shallow and backing a caddy with no shocks and bald tires into a lake is not a good idea. Mitchy backed "her" in as far as he could and we pushed this big fiberglass hulk into the lake . Here is the layout. Mitch's boat is a water skiing boat....100 hp engine...designed to tow skiers and go fast. Lake Carmi is a postage stamp. If you gunned this thing for a minute you would be tearing up dry land on the other side. A 12 ft aluminum with electric trolling motor would have been perfect...but its what we had and Mitch was excited, so go with it. Ok Capt, start her up. and so he did. Well it almost started. and again almost ..and again almost,...and again almost...and again not almost and then not at all. Battery had tapped out. Whats the matter Mitch. Who knows I haven't started it in a year. Great Prep for a trip huh?? Its flooded now let it sit. So we did and the afternoon was fading away. He tried again but the battery only had one push in it and the second try gave us the dead battery click. I know its the starter mike. Mitch ..this is a car battery..you need a marine battery for this engine. No that will work. Its the starter. As he spoke I wondered where in gods name there is a starter for that thing around here and I also wonder why he was disconnecting the trailer from the car that very moment. Mike , pull the car into the water (yes he did say that) and we can use jumper cables to get it going. Ronny just stood.......silent. Now the caddy is up to the wheel wells ...with cables draped over the side of the boat and him yelling....Now rev it up!!! Of course ...no go. Its the starter mike. Mitch..its dark...today is a wash. Tomorrow is another day. We tied the boat off at our site. and drove the car and trailer to an open area. Apparently unfazed. or should I say un fiascoed, Mitch got totally drunk..laughed his ass off...ate everything in site and proceeded to break the new England record for flatulation and snoring volume. In a tent this just doesn't make it... I kicked his butt out and he went to the caddy for his good nites sleep....all 260 lbs of him.
Rain greeted us in the morn and the idea of a good campfire breakfast faded. I know a good diner to eat..lets go there. Are you sure its still there Mitch....its been 15 years or so. Sure it is...I can see it from here. Yup ..there was a building on the other side of the lake...I agreed with him on that point. The diner/house/store/everything/ was open....and they did have breakfast. They had eggs and toast and toast and eggs. I didn't dare ask for anything imaginative so with very brief eye contact with the waitress from the 50's, I said.....eggs and toast will be fine with me!!. This place was so small and desolate that the dusty cans of spam on the shelves were starting to look good!!! Ron paid the tab and boat repairs were next on the docket.
Somehow we managed to get the car to a nearby town.....30 miles away...and found a car/marine parts store. Mitch asks the guy for a kit to re build his starter. The guy asked about the problem and Mitch briefly explained but is determined to get the kit. Do you know, the guy had one!!!!! I had to ask.. Mitch why are you getting the kit...just get a rebuilt starter. I don't have any money I want to make it as cheap as possible. But this will take along time and I wanna fish. Its a snap mike...plus Ron is a good mechanic. I looked at Ron and he said........Buy the rebuilt one!! Mitch had a temporary hearing loss....he bought the kit, with my money!!!!
Alas , back at camp fiasco...rebuilding a starter in the pouring rain with almost no tools. Eventually they did it. and back down to the lake for ..hopefully...some afternoon fishing on this , our second day. Took some effort to get it back in the motor but that went well also and now for the instant startup. It wasn't even close. The battery was strained even worse with the tight fit of the new starter. Again I tried. Mitch, you need a marine battery for this. The old recharged , car battery is not strong enough to turn it over. Mike I have had boats my whole life...I know its not that. We ended up fishing from the shore in a lily pad choked area. No bites...and the second day done with the boat still down. I had bought a refill of Mitch's drinking last night and he was eyeing those beers lustfully. The empty cans make a distinct sound as they went into the trash can each time Mitch tossed one there. This night he went straight to the back seat in the caddy......he knew he was forced to endure himself.
Thick mist laid all over the remains of last nights argument of boat problems and I wasn't looking forward to day threes attempt to get things running. Hung over or not..I kicked his ass out of the car and said lets go back to the car parts guy right now and get the dam battery.....you can pay me back later...I WANNA FISH. If that's what you want Mike , fine, but your wasting your money. Down the road another 30 miles one way. Not much chit chat this time!. Its my money...leave me alone in there. He nodded, I was paying he had to go along. Same guy, we were there when he opened. What happened boys...cant do the starter. No we did it I said and it looks great but now its so tight the engine wont turn over. Guess what he said??????? "YOU ARE USING A MARINE BATTERY AREN'T YOU?" I didn't answer him...Give me a new one please. We brought it back...my wallet 90$ thinner..put it in the boat and the engine started that time and every time after that. Mitch was a little sullen during that afternoon.....but you know what????.......We were fishing.
Finally, I put the steel leaders on the rods and made use of some shiners we had corralled in a local brook. I suggested we sit calm in this cove we found and wait for the Monster Pike to hit the dorsaled baitfish. At last the slip float reacted and down it went. I set up for the hook set and felt almost no resistance upon my reaction. It was a pike alright....about 12 inches long. Uh oh....runt pike ponds....I have seen it happen before. I hoped this wasn't the case with Lake Carmi as it filled in more and more over the last 20 yrs. Not another bite in the cove so we tried the same type of other spots. Not a thing. This was very depressing especially when you consider how quickly pike take a live bait. What should we do Mike? Oh boy ...success seemed to depend on my answer , so with a half hearted guess I said. Lets troll some lures. How slow can you make this skiing motor go?...We popped on some rapalas and the likes and kicked the big motor down to a crawl and enjoyed a boat ride, after all Ol Lake Carmi's famed pike seemed to be a distant memory in Mitch's childhood. I think Ron noticed the first knockdown and as he reeled it to boat side while commenting on its spunky nature, Mitch promptly announced to me that it was "A golden Perch". When I netted it for Ron........the walleye was a refreshing site.
Our catch for the day
Now wait a minute here....The heck with the pike, lets get some walleyes for a camp dinner. I took all the steel off and modified some of the lure choices and continued our new pursuit. Wouldn't you know it. We caught like 9 or 10 beauties...filleted them up ... wrapped some, while dining on the rest. It took us three days ...all rainy...a wad of cash....all mine....but finally Lake Carmi had shown us its evolution....It was a walleye lake. When I sat there and watched the coals burn down that night, I didn't mind the mud all over everything...the soaked tent...the smell of stale beer and all the other classic touches of this Fiasco. I was serene in the Vermont woods having successfully brought back tales of yesterday for my Buddy Mitch. He was so happy and looped again We just laughed at all the shenanigans that occurred. I even agreed to accompany him in the caddy for part of the ride home. He just loved it.
Note the caddy and boat setup!!!!
Oh, and the ride back? It was a bit warm, the 90 degree temps and the heater going full blast the whole time made my sneakers smell like a fire at Nike.
Fiascos are fun to live through and easy to remember.!!. Keep this in mind.....THE SECRET OF LIFE IS TO ENJOY THE PASSAGE OF TIME. Get up, and do something enjoyable.