(Editor’s Note: Todd wrote this story, but I added my comments in red.  At least I think it’s red, being color blind and all.)

Years ago when Matt and I first started fishing together, trips were pretty straight forward. We were both too poor for charter boats or guides, or even decent tackle. Back then, all the fishing gear I owned fit neatly in half of the back seat of my car with room to spare. In fact, that may be why the back seat of my car always had an aroma all its own, but that’s another story…

Since neither of us had a boat, we fished from every shoreline, beach and and pier within driving range. Looking back now that we both have boats and have fished all over the country, there’s a lot to be said for simplicity. (Dude…it’s called “desperation”.) We were never late leaving for a trip because the boat trailer lights quit working or because we left the plug for the boat in the “other” truck. When we wanted to go fishing, everything we needed was usually already in either his car or mine.

During early spring, one of our favorite spots was along the banks of the Patuxent River in Maryland, just below the fall line. We’d meet after work in the evenings and head straight for the river where white and yellow perch would run up the river to spawn. This particular hole was well known among the locals and if the weather was nice we’d have to wedge ourselves between other anglers to get a spot on the bank. This was minimalistic fishing… just a couple of rods for each of us, leaning against forked sticks shoved into the mud. After dark, we attached bells to the ends of the rods so we could hear when the fish started biting. On nights when the tide was wrong, we’d sit for a couple of hours without a single bite waiting for the tide to change.

(One note about this fishing spot. It was on a tiny peninsula that had the river on one side, and a swamp on the other. The little spit of land on which we sat was about 10 feet wide.)

One chilly evening in March, the temperature dropped and it started to rain. Everyone left but us. With an hour or so before the tide was going to change, Matt and I decided to scrounge some wood and build a fire. We’d seen plenty of other guys with fires along the river and never thought about whether or not it was a good idea, or even legal… we were cold and getting wet and a fire was just the thing we needed to cheer things up.

We picked up a pretty good pile of trash, stacked wood on top and pretty soon had a nice campfire right on the river bank. (“Nice campfire”?!?  As I recall, we had a stump made of petrified wood burning white hot.  I seem to remember us literally putting glass beer bottles we found along the river into the fire and watching them melt.  Seriously.) Before long, the rain stopped, the tide changed and the fish turned on. In just a few minutes, we were jumping from rod to rod catching four fish at a time to the sound of the bells attached to our rods in what must have resembled a weird redneck ballet. Neither of us felt the wind pick up until it was almost too late…

I don’t know if it was the sudden source of heat or the roaring sound we noticed first, but Matt and I both turned around to see that our little camp fire had jumped onto our “reserve” pile of wood and was rapidly heading into the woods along the river.

We wasted no time and leaped immediately to action. To the casual observer it might have appeared like we were jumping up and down, waving our arms and screaming at each other like little girls, but to a more experienced eye, it would have been obvious that we were energetically debating differing methods of forest fire management. My preferred method involved a sprint to the car and an anonymous call from the nearest phone booth. Matt argued that since we both had 5 gallon buckets and an entire river just a few feet behind us, we should probably just toss water on the fire until it was out. I quickly countered that his method involved more than a little risk of personal injury and possible jail time if it weren’t successful. Plus, we’d be doing the community a favor by giving the volunteer fire department a real fire to practice with. In the end, I gave up trying to reason with him. After all, some people just aren’t good under pressure.  (HA!  You make it sound so reasonable.  The decision was made for us when the aforementioned peninsula was on fire…between us and the truck.  I believe my argument in the debate was centered around the fact that on a cold, windy March night, it might be in our best interest to extinguish the fire between us and our means of escape rather than try to swim in the 34 degree water to get around it.  Oh…and you forgot to mention that when the fire was out, we kept fishing, of course!)

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