Fishing in Public

By "Tackle Box" Billy Kelley

Tackling the trestle

Finally, through a combination of coercion, bribes and outright threats, I convinced Diane, my best friend and partner in crime, to join me on an expedition to arguably the most dangerous place in Portland: the old railroad trestle out by the sewage treatment plant. 

I admire her courage. I’ve known grown men to balk at even approaching the antique railroad bridge. But Diane’s a real trooper, ready to come along on most of my harebrained antics (and she’s very easy on the eyes). 

The State Pier has been crowded, private piers been getting a little picky and, to top it all off, an ignorant boat captain ran over Diane’s line, costing me my last jig. Macks have fallen off lately (Capt. Nick says it’s the weather) and the rest of my team’s been reporting good striper action and occasional bluefish hits at the trestle, so that’s definitely the place to go.

Built a gazillion years ago for the Grand Trunk Railway, unfortunately it seems to have become a magnet for every vandal with a book of matches to come down the pike. Between natural rot and good ol’ arson, it has become a very dangerous spot. 

But hey, we’re Mainiacs, and weather and danger scare us not. So the beer’s on ice, the joints are rolled (impossible to roll on the trestle — the breeze, you know), our poles are rigged and we agree to meet on the bike path. 

King Neptune is surely giving his blessing: the sun is actually shining! But to my dismay, Diane’s got three kids in tow, and they’re like, “Are you crazy? We’re not going out there!” So Diane ends up shuttling back and forth, keeping the kids happy and me happy while I set my poles and the kids have the time of their life using their poles to catch crabs on shore. 

You know, things never seem to go as planned. I figured I’d take Diane out, regale her with fishing tales from days gone by and impress her with my vast fishing skills — you know, like the big man bringing home the bacon. Yet it’s I who is impressed. She’s managing to entertain the children, keep me happy (no easy task) and actually pretty much out-fish me, to boot. 

I no way started this as a tribute to womanhood, but I can’t help but be amazed at her talents. The kids are mommy-ing her to pieces, I’m next to impossible, and she’s navigating the trestle like the oldest deckhand you ever met. I’m sitting there taking it all in: the kids laughing, the sun, the water, the trestle, and all I can think of are two things. 

First is Randall McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, when he takes the boys fishing and he’s just sitting back watching the show, having a ball. And the second thing is that song by (help me here, Chris) — oh, I remember now: Louie Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World.” We’re having a great time being on the trestle, and I realize what a wonderful world it is.

Then you know how it is when you’re having fun: time flies and it’s time for us to fly also. And I’m looking around and I’m thinking, I wish everyone would come and enjoy this, because time is fleeting and all too soon it’ll be all gone. I’ve talked to the engineers who are going to tear the trestle down, and when that happens I’ll miss another part of the Portland waterfront that will pass into history, like the old boatyards that once lined the shore next to the trestle. 

And it brings a tear to my eye.

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