The following post appeared in A Small World Magazine. Enjoy...
The Sweet Smell (But Not Taste) of Success
By S.E. Cupp
Tarpon, popular among sport fishermen, supposedly has no food value…although, in a pinch, I have a feeling it would keep you alive for a few extra days. Nonetheless, I wasn’t allowed to keep the 130-pound, 7-foot monster I caught off Miami over New Year’s. But after a lifetime of relative failures in this department, I didn’t need the trophy to leave totally satisfied.
I went to Miami to escape New York’s blistering 5-degree temperatures for a few days, and catch up with my friend Doug Giles, an accomplished fisherman and hunter. He’s a well-known conservative radio host (he is the creator and host of The Clash radio shows), a columnist (he has millions of readers at Townhall.com), an author (see recent titles like “How to Keep Jackasses Away From Daddy’s Girl”), and a minister (he’s a graduate of Knox Theological Seminary).
Doug is a raucous and rowdy mix of old-school, traditional conservative values with the kind of eff-you attitude folks like Ted Nugent have made millions on. He’s one part rebellious rock star, one part crusading missionary, and another part rough rider. And he was going to take me fishing.
I hunt and fish as often as I can. Not only do I love it, but as a 20-something woman and writer in New York City, it gives me some street cred to talk about the politics of gun laws, conservation, land use, and sportsmen’s issues, which I do frequently in various publications and on television. And as a political columnist and pundit, it’s always fun freaking out my well-heeled and expertly manicured contemporaries with tales of my latest adventures.
But those adventures, while always fun and terrific learning experiences, haven’t always gone to plan. In short, I’m PETA’s favorite kind of hunter: the one who never fires a shot. I spent 12 hours this past November in a deer blind on the frozen floor of a Coventry, New York forest waiting for a buck to pass in front of my 12-gauge shotgun. It didn’t.
And in August I went to Alaska for the second time in a year to catch my body weight in salmon and halibut. Three days into the trip and all I had caught was bronchitis. I spent the duration in bed, listening to the sounds of wild dogs scavenging through bags of fish parts–caught by my healthier tripmates– outside my window.
A few years ago I went deep-sea fishing off the coast of Brazil, where I was told I’d have a chance at marlin, dolphin and sailfish–some of the best sport fish out there. But the seas were so rough all we caught were 30 or so sand dollar-sized porgies, which we used for a fish fry on the beach at Buzios. They were tasty (as were the homemade caipirinhas the boat captain whipped up), but I would have gladly gone hungry and thirsty that night in exchange for a memorable fight with a marlin.
So when I agreed to an outting on the high seas with Doug and his friend Captain Gavet, my expectations were low. Being outside is always a nice break from the hibernation-like life of a writer, but I haven’t always been able to seal the deal, and Doug’s insistence that we’d “be in serious pain” the following day was no real assurance. I’ve heard it before.
A few hours into the day and things weren’t looking good. No marine life, unless you count the minor run-in I had with a Portugese Man O’War, whose sting causes very painful but temporary paralysis. As I awaited a slow and painful death, the captain started telling tales, not of fish he’s caught, but bodies he’s discovered while out on jobs. I grew worried I’d hook a John Doe before I caught a John Dory, or any other kind of fish.
As night fell and the Miami coastline lit up, I resigned myself to the prospect of another fishing trip without the big payoff. But then, suddenly, screaming reels. I grabbed the rod and whatever was on there was massive. It took me 40 minutes to muscle the tarpon, bigger and longer than me, up to the boat, where we took a dozen blurry pictures before cutting it loose. My abdominals, shoulders, biceps and back were shredded. I could barely hold the celebratory cigar Doug cut for me…it felt like it weighed 30 pounds. Shaking, I enjoyed a Corona and reveled in the thrill of an utterly successful outing, where I caught the fish of a lifetime. Finally.
I’ve learned tremendous patience from fishing and hunting. It’s not about the kill. Responsible hunting and fishing, in fact, means that you put the integrity of the sport ahead of the trophy. It’s frustrating, of course, but it’s an invaluable lesson. It would have been nice to have kept the fish, either for dinner or to mount. But rules are rules, and I’m happy to abide. Maybe one day another frustrated fisherwomen from the wilds of New York City will catch that same tarpon, and leave with the a similar satisfaction. Or maybe, he and I will meet again. I look forward to the duel. In the meantime, it’s back to life in the big city, where the only hunting I do is for my keys, and the only fishing I manage is for a little generosity from my editors. Tight lines, indeed.