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Written By: Kathie Morgan, November 20, 2012
You start with a dream. Blue skies, clouds maybe, a release of tension. Blue water, a sunny breeze, and a surge of adrenaline. A glimpse of something you’ve never before seen, or commonplace but strangely different here in your dream. This is why we fish.
Disabled military veterans are no different. Nightmares may dog their days, but whenever possible they pursue their dreams just like we do. Monterey Bay Veterans, Inc, the group that for over 25 years has provided deepsea fishing trips for disabled vets, has come to Napa County. On three days in October, a bus carried veterans from the Yountville Veterans Home to the Napa Harbor Yacht Club, where they boarded the sleek 49-foot Independence for a half day of fishing the Napa River.
Two trips – morning and afternoon – were scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday. I rode the only Wednesday trip, a morning boat ride starting at 9 am. We boarded the boat as a bevy of hot air balloons landed on the opposite shore, just yards away, and everyone with a camera or cell phone snapped pictures.
Once we found our places and the wheelchairs were secured, we slipped away from the dock and headed down river. Crewmen Bill Reisig and John Whitacre Jr. rigged up spinning outfits for the 10 passengers. Those in wheelchairs sat snugly in the stern and got acquainted with the operation of the reels in anticipation of the hookups to come.
Ed Hamm, an Army vet formerly of Fresno, loves life at the veterans home with its wide range of activities. But that day nothing could beat being out on the water, sitting in the bow as we passed under the Imola Bridge. Someone had caught a striper in that stretch on Tuesday. What were our chances of another?
A flock of Canada geese flew low overhead, honking like rusty playground equipment as they headed toward the airport. “Beautiful!” declared Ed. We passed beneath the Highway 29 Bridge. Salmon had been spotted moving upstream. Now there’s a fish to dream on.
Just upstream of Cuttings Wharf, Captain Tim Doreck stopped the boat and the deckhands baited the hooks. Lines dropped into the water and the anticipation began. Who would hook the first fish? Who would fight it to the boat? Who would grab the glory?
I stood in the bow throwing a swimbait. “If I hook a fish, will you land it for me?” I asked Ed. This veteran of the Viet Nam War nodded happily, his eyes bright with anticipation.
I dreamed of hooking a fish for him. I would set the hook and let my fish make that first run, then hand it off to my newfound friend. But it wasn’t in the cards. A few anglers brought up lines where the bait had clearly been messed with. They had been that close to a hookup. The excitement grew.
And grew to bursting, nearly, when we heard a tremendous splash. Richard Jones and I turned at once and saw a hole in the water where a friendly sturgeon had dropped back in after checking us out. Maybe he would take a bait. We held our breaths.
But nobody hooked a fish, although we gave it our best shot for a couple of hours. Lunch would be served back at the marina at noon, so we all followed the captain’s order to wind ‘em in. MBV Executive Director John Whitacre Sr. met us back at the dock, and soon wheelchairs were making their way back up the ramp to the pretty lunchroom.
There we could sit, our dreams still alive, and watch the parade of sunbeams and shadows, ripples and rainbows, that only barely obscured the passage of fish up river. Next time.
Monterey Bay Veterans is a non-profit corporation funded entirely by donations. If you’d like to help, contact them at http://www.mbv.org or telephone 831/901-0217. Share the enjoyment of fishing with these heroes who risked their lives on our behalf.
When you do, I’ll be looking for you on the banks.
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