Hi-Ho Humpies

Have you noticed when you’re fishing with a group of people, there is always one angler who just doesn’t fit in with the group? I don’t mean they have bad breath or a contrary personality. It’s the fish they were catching or not catching. Like the time, I was fishing out of George Inlet Lodge in Southeast Alaska. Everyone but one guy was catching halibut. The guy who didn’t fit in was catching sand sharks. Every time his line went down, wearing the same bait as everyone else and fishing on the same side of the boat at the same depth, he came up with a sand shark.

Then there was the day I was fishing for silvers on the Little Camashack River. I couldn’t miss. It was every cast a fighting, acrobatic silver. The next day when we returned, the person I was fishing with couldn’t miss, and I couldn’t get a bite. We were fishing in the same hole, the same way, and precisely the same way as the day before, but if we had to eat our catch for lunch, I’d gone hungry. To make matters worse, everyone else in the party was catching. I was the only one who couldn’t buy a fish.

The same thing happened on the Little Susitna River fishing for silvers with guide Andy Couch, owner of FishTale River Guides. Besides myself, Andy’s clients included my daughter-in-law, Rebecca, and my son Easten.

We started early since Andy said he’d like to be the first one on the Slide Hole that morning. No sooner had we arrived than we began catching fish. Andy, the professional, outfished us, even though he was only trying to find the fish for us. He soon had three silvers in the cooler. I was next. This wasn’t a catch-and-release day; this was meat-gathering-for-the-freezer angling. It wasn’t long before Rebecca had three silvers on ice in Andy’s cooler. Along the way, we had taken and released a couple of pinks or chums. We held out for the more desirable silvers. Once our limits were taken care of, we got comfortable in the boat and began “helping” Easten as we ate sandwiches and drank soda pop.

Easten had caught more fish than any of us, but he had yet to connect on a silver. He couldn’t get his line back in after a cast without a chum or pink on his hook—mostly pinks. After an hour or so of landing pinks, his cast and retrieve would be punctuated with “Oh no, not another pink.”

It wasn’t long until Andy started helping us help Easten. Each time Easten hooked a pink, Andy would sing “Hi-Ho Humpie,” and we’d all laugh. All except Easten. He was getting frustrated, but took the friendly ribbing in stride.

Finally, Andy suggested we move to another hole and see if Easten’s luck would change. It didn’t. And Andy continued his “Hi-Ho Humpie” serenade. It wasn’t long before Easten’s good-natured smile disappeared, and he started fishing in concentrated earnest.

Easten was about ready to call it a day when a silver finally hit his lure, but his good fortune was short-lived as the silver was soon celebrating its freedom by jumping and shaking Easten’s spinner at him—of course, less any attached line.

A few casts later, sandwiched between Andy’s “Hi-Ho Humpie” concerts, Easten finally regained a portion of his ego by landing a silver. With the netting of his first silver, his courage returned, and he decided to continue fishing. Unfortunately, his bad luck came back with his courage, and Andy’s “Hi-Ho Humpie” song became more frequent until time ran out and mercifully saved Easten from further embarrassment.

Of course, the ribbing didn’t end with Easten putting away his rod. It continued until Andy said goodbye and called one more “Hi-Ho Humpie” to Easten as we departed the river. Even after we got home and reported our trip to the family, we smiled and sang “Hi-Ho Humpie.”

I’m surprised, however, that Easten hasn’t remembered his and my last silver fishing trip with Andy Couch. It was a couple of years ago. Easten and Andy caught all the fish, and I was the one who didn’t fit in. I didn’t even catch a pink so Andy could sing, “Hi-Ho Humpie.”