National Federation of the Blind
By Chris Kuell
In 1961 my parents paid the
astronomical price of $9,000 for a summer cottage deep in the woods of
Maine. Camp, as we called it, had two bedrooms, an indoor toilet and sink
but no shower or bath, and sat next to a small lake. This was where my
siblings and I spent a portion of every summer growing up. No phone, no
television, and only one station came in on the radio, WBZ from Boston,
which is how I fell in love with the Red Sox.
The Titanic opened up new fishing
venues to us. Across the lake from us was a spot where the perch would
almost jump on your hook. To the left was pickerel point, a weedy patch
where the long, whippish fish like to lurk. At dusk the bass liked to
feed, and one evening after a rainstorm I caught what I thought must be
the biggest fish in the lake, a sixteen-and-a-half inch large-mouth bass
that established me as the best angler in history
at least until
my brother David caught a seventeen incher two weeks later. He cut a plank
of pine board the exact size of his fish, creating a plaque detailing
the historic catch that hung on the wall of the camp until my parents
sold it just a few years ago.
In college I would excuse myself
to practice my casting every time I visited my folks at the camp. Each
of the five years I lived in Vermont, I would enter the Lake Champlain
Fishing Derby, hoping to finally land a prize-winning fish, yet always
came up short. Even the year I netted a pike-a fish story I'll save for
another day- wasn't big enough to win me a trophy or a mention in the
After college, with a new job
and working on the old house my wife and I had purchased, there wasn't
much time for fishing. The summer my son turned four we visited friends
in upstate New York and got him his own Zebco 202. I got to experience
the same wonder my Dad once had--how the hell did you get your line wound
up in a tree, under a rock, around the dock and then stuck in your shirt?
The joy on his face made up for the lack of time I had to do some fishing
of my own. And by the following summer, I was blind.
My son grew to be quite the
fisherman. One day at my parent's camp he caught over 100 inches of fish.
I kept him company, chatting and going to get him a sandwich so he could
keep casting, but I had no desire to throw in my own line. Like many of
the things I'd done when I was sighted, fishing had lost its allure. I
satisfied myself by listening to his excitement and feeling the size of
some of the whoppers he caught.
In the spring of 2009, my friend
Allan Golabek, who is also blind, told me about a fishing tournament he'd
heard about. Hosted by the Berlin Lions Club, it was exclusively for people
who were visually impaired. According to Al, the Lions supplied the poles,
the bait, fed you lunch-all you had to do was show up. Unfortunately,
I took a bad fall, fractured several bones in my foot, was stuck in a
cast for nearly seven months and missed the derby.
The 2010 Lions VIP Fishing
Derby was on a beautiful, sunny day at Sage Park Pond in Berlin, Connecticut.
I caught three trout and a bluegill, more fish than I'd caught in over
a decade, but it was only enough to land me fourth place. The first three
places got a free trip to the Outer Banks for the National Derby, which
is the story of my life. In August, Bob Christensen, the Lion who ran
the CT Derby, called to say the first place winner couldn't go to North
Carolina, and would I like to go? I jumped on the opportunity, but my
mother-in-law was in the last weeks of her battle with pancreatic cancer
and I couldn't go.
Fast forward to April 17, 2011.
We'd had two inches of rain the previous night, and people said the pond
was muddy and dark. A little before 9:00 we grabbed our poles and bait,
spread out around the edge of the pond and waited. And waited. About ten
minutes went by, I was expecting a whistle or a horn or something when
one of the sighted folks asked, "Why aren't you fishing?"
Fifteen minutes later I caught
the first fish of the day, a feisty, eleven inch rainbow trout. An hour
later I caught another, this one 11 ½ inches. Allan, who was on
my left, hadn't had a bite. Alex, on my right, caught one, but it flopped
off the hook just as he pulled it from the water. Across the pond I heard
one or two happy shouts, but the mosquitoes seemed to be biting more than
After poles had been turned
in and we'd feasted on burgers, hot dogs and fresh trout, it was time
for awards. Turns out my three fish were enough to land me a huge, first
place trophy-and a trip to North Carolina this Fall. As people shook my
hand and congratulated me, I remembered that seventeen-inch plaque hanging
on the camp wall for nearly thirty years. I smiled, thinking of the picture
of me with this big trophy I'm going to give my brother David for Christmas
To learn more about the Lions
VIP Fishing Derby, contact Bob Christensen at 860-680-7227 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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|Updated December 7, 2011|