Columns,  Fishing,  Waterfowl

Keep & Release

Every podcast recording session starts out the same way: Emily, exasperated, looks at Nate and I and asks, “Do you guys have a ‘Keep’ and ‘Release’ for this week?”

If you’ve never heard the show, a) consider yourself lucky and don’t click this link, and b) Keep and Release is the segment where we give a little shout-out to whatever the one thing is that we want to talk about this week in a positive light (Keep), and the one thing that irritated us or aggravated us in the previous week (Release).  A release could be leaky waders or faulty spinning reels or lousy internet service or duck ID posts on social media or any of a litany of things.

In fact, it’s become a bit of a joke behind the scenes, the rants that accompany release.  So much so that, while listening to the show last week, Will looked at me before we even got to “Keep and Release” and said “Dad, what do you hate this week?”

“Hate?  I don’t hate anything?”

“Dad – you hate EVERYthing . . . “

His exasperation hit me kind of heavy.  I took a breath, right there driving to school, and replied:

“I love a lot of things, too.

I love hot summer mornings when your shirt sticks to you before you step outside, and the chill of an ice-cold window unit AC when you get back home.  Fall mornings when there’s just a hint of crispness in the air, and winter days when they’re gloomy and overcast and your breath hangs around all day, and spring time when the greens are so bright they hurt your eyes.

I love duck hunting, and decoys, and dogs and hearing the birds before you see them and the way a wood duck whistles or a mottled grunts and the noise a huge flock of divers make, feathers and wings and air harmonizing on this weirdly deafening rumble.  I love the quacks and the tweets and the burrs, the kerplunk of a fresh shell, the chill in the air, how your hands can’t ever get warm once your glove gets wet, and ‘Take ‘em’ and ‘Cut ‘em’ and ‘Kill ‘em’ and ‘Shoot’ and ‘Fetch ‘em up’ and ‘last one’ and ‘think they’re done’ and ‘I got that one’ and ‘y’all wanna go get breakfast’ . . .

I love bird dogs, wacky and rangy and as distracted as a teen-aged boy at a cheerleader convention, locked up and birds brought to hand and sharing peanut butter crackers in between stops . . .

I don’t hate everything.  I love snook, and that glorious pop that sounds like someone launching potatoes into the shallows, the way they’ll chase your lure and tap it around and not commit, or the way they’ll over-commit and miss it entirely, big ones and little ones and in between ones right in the slot, and watching all of them swim away.  And I love redfish, the way they have to almost turn upside down to inhale a topwater plug, and the wake behind your bait right before everything goes crazy, and the tips of their tails signaling you on low tide to stop and hang out for a few.  And don’t forget tarpon, man, I love tarpon, cartwheeling and catwalking and somersaulting and basically doing things that would’ve gotten them burned at the stake in the 1600’s, 120 lbs of gills rattling and tail smacking fun, turning the beach into swiss cheese . . .

I love lots of things.  Turkeys and trout and teal.  Yeti’s and Yellowfins and Searks and Carolina Skiffs, the tackle department at Stone’s and gas station Cuban sandwiches and chumming for whitebait and Spanish Mackeral and under-slots and decoy bags and Zara spooks and picking up spent shells after the hunt and cutting down palm fronds for blinds; wet bird dogs and the way they smell, 2 stroke motors burning oil, cork rod grips and Cabelas catalogs and Mack’s Prairie Wings catalogs and podcasts and new waders and long lines and hi-vis PowerPro.

I love taking you and your sister outdoors, and kids’ first ducks and dogs’ last ducks and limits of mangrove snapper . . . Sunsets on the boat, and sunrises on the boat, sometimes in the same day; wade fishing, and shrimp runs and mullet runs . . . Beagles and Berettas and bobbers and bream . . .

When you say I hate ever-“

“Dad” Will interrupted . . .

“You still hate Duck ID posts, right?”

We hugged.

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