Dateline: October 19, 2014 – Ventura, California
Karma is very strong with Marta. While I scoff at superstition, in the heat of a deeply spiritual moment, like a Stanley Cup game or a bad day of fishing, it never hurts to have Karma on your side. I often find myself asking Marta “What would it take for you to actively root for the Red Wings?” or “Can you use your influence with the universe to get me just one new species?”
Karmic or not, Marta is nobody’s fool, and her response is often “What’s it worth to you?” And foolishly, I often find myself bargaining to engage her influence on something that rational people realize will happen or not no matter what rituals I perform. This was bound to cause trouble, and last October, it finally did.
Autumn 2014 was a season of weddings in our circle of friends. We attended two in Southern California, necessitating two road trips. It’s always nice to get out on the road together, and it was a chance to see some parts of California we don’t get to very often, in this case Ventura and Palm Springs.
The first wedding, in Ventura, was ridiculously nice. Mike has been a dear friend of Marta’s for years – he is an awesome guy if for no other reason than he reads 1000fish religiously. His bride, Kirsten, seems equally awesome, although I am not sure if she reads the blog. They are one of those couples who are so smart, good-looking, and successful that I wouldn’t believe they were real if I hadn’t met them.
The photos of these two look like they came with the frame, and not the kind of frame you get at CVS, but the type you get in those high-end little shops in Carmel that are never there for long because their frames are too expensive.
The four of us together, just to prove we were there. I am undoubtedly telling a fishing story.
The wedding had rockets. All wedding should have rockets.
They paid extra for a perfect sunset, and who could look at this without thinking that the shortfin corvina were likely biting?
The morning of the wedding, we explored Ventura, a seaside town fashionably north of Los Angeles. This meant that I explored the local pier and that Marta found some new-age, yoga-type stuff to do. She texted me several times with photos of a Buddha statue she thought would look nice in our home. I ignored those texts and hoped the topic would go away. Around lunch, she joined me on the pier and asked if I had caught anything new.
Ventura pier, the scene of the controversy.
“Caught anything new?” she asked. I responded that I had not. “Perhaps,” Marta replied, “this is because you have not welcomed the Buddha statue into our home.” I pointed out that this would cost more than an average reel and leave less room in our home for IGFA trophies. But the fishing was not going well, and she pressed the issue. I finally agreed that if I caught a new species, I would buy the statue. This agreement was made on Saturday, October 11, 2014. In the opinion of myself and a friend who owns the complete set of Perry Mason DVDs, this means that the agreement was only valid on October 11, 2015 … and maybe the 12th … but that’s it. I did indeed fish at Ventura pier those days and caught nothing of note.
Fast forward a week. We attended a wedding in Palm Springs.
Steve and Marta in formal garb. Yes, I do own clothing that doesn’t say “Sport Fishing Magazine” or “Hi’s Tackle Box” on it. Of course, now you’re all wondering if I’m wearing Shimano underwear, but some things should be private.
I had not been to Palm Springs since I was a kid, when my grandparents lived near there so that my grandfather could complain about the heat there rather than the cold in Michigan.
Looking down from Mt. Scaredofheights onto the Palm Springs Valley.
Sunset on the hills. There are definitely Palms there, but I didn’t see any springs.
The next day, we agreed that we would go home through Ventura so Marta could attend some sort of exotic yoga class and I could take a second crack at the pier.
Another perfect day in Southern California.
Marta ran off to yoga and I got to fish Ventura pier on a pleasant fall day. I got some of the usual suspects, such as perch, brown sharks, and thornbacks.
A small thornback – a member of the guitarfish family. I have an ugly history with this group of fish – click HERE for details.
And then I got something new – unmistakably a queenfish. Not a big one, but size pride is not part of the species hunting game. I was quite pleased with myself, and I knew Ben Florentino was breathing a huge sigh of relief because now he wouldn’t need to find me one.
A Queenfish. Not to be confused with the tropical predator, these small croakers are supposed to be everywhere in Southern California, but I had never gotten one until now.
Marta got back from yoga and wandered out onto the pier. “Did you catch a new species?” Seeing where this was going, I hesitated. She continued “If so, we are getting the Buddha.” I attempted to explain that the agreement was only valid on the 11th and maybe the 12th, but she dismissed me as only a woman you have been dating for 11 years can dismiss you. I therefore changed strategies and decided to tell her … nothing. “Well? Did you?”
I acknowledged that I caught … something. I explained that scaenids are often difficult to tell apart and that I would need to consult with experts. She is clever and she asked me to send her the photo, so she could check it herself. I refused, explaining that the chain of evidence would be broken and my constitutional rights were at stake.
As you can imagine, this topic dominated the conversation for the five hour drive home. To cover her bases, she stopped and bought the Buddha, and is expecting me to pay her back if the fish was indeed new. And so, for the past few months, I have been changing the subject, which is hard to do with Marta.
Marta will get this blog along with everyone else. She insists that she reads the 1000fish blog thoroughly, so this will be something of a test of her love for me. If she reads this and raises the subject within 12 hours of publication, I will pay for the Buddha. Otherwise, no. Jaime, if you text her a warning, you can pay for the Buddha.
The clock starts … now.
Special Bonus Section – The Taiwanese Limo Fish
Dateline: October 7, 2014 – Taipei, Taiwan
It may amaze you – or not – that there are actually a few countries I have visited where I have not caught a fish. Six, to be exact – Russia, The Vatican, Venezuela, El Salvador, Fiji, and Taiwan.
It so happened that October found me on a business trip to Taiwan, and I was determined to right this great wrong and make Taiwan the 83rd country where I had caught a fish.
This would not be easy. I had one morning of free time, so I pestered the concierge at the Hyatt – and after a few emails, they found what looked like a dreadful pay pond on the industrial outskirts of town. (The concierge is always a great resource for this sort of thing – another example HERE.)
Transportation was my next issue. The pond was quite some distance from the hotel, and a taxi, especially for the return trip, would be challenging. But this was my chance to add the country, so I just got a hotel car for the morning, which cost about as much as a taxi and came complete with Jordan, the English-speaking driver.
Steve and Jordan. That’s the Mercedes in the background.
The drive took about an hour, and as we got further away from downtown, the scenery became relatively green and hilly. I am told Taiwan is a beautiful island – I need to explore more of it.
Judging by the stares, the clientele at the suburban pay pond hadn’t seen too many westerners pull up in a Mercedes. Trying to be as low-key as possible, I walked in, paid my two dollars, and set up some gear. Just to cover my bases, I had bought a loaf of white bread in a 7-11 on the way in, and this turned out to be exactly the right bait. Moments later, I caught a carp and Taiwan was on the country list.
The carp. A popular fish worldwide, possibly because they can live in conditions like this.
I got a nice blue tilapia later on, and the pond manager came out for the photo.
The blue tilapia, another globally popular fish.
That was about all the time we had, so I packed up the travel rods and we started driving down the hill toward Taipei. It was then I noticed a concrete spillway with a small stream splashing over it. Although it was crowded with refuse, including a washing machine and the remains of a 1970s Chevy, I just had to look.
The anonymous Taiwanese stream.
Sure enough, I could see fish in there. Some were obviously tilapia, but I couldn’t make out some of the smaller ones, so out came the rod and the white bread. It took longer to get the bread on the #24 hook than it did to catch the fish, and several weeks later, to my great delight, I discovered that I had caught a new species – the Candidus Lake dace. Jordan was bewildered at my joy, but some 20 years after I had first visited Taiwan, I had managed to catch a fish there and even add a species, so it was a good day.
The Candidus Lake dace. This took some of the sting out of a painful afternoon of meetings.