Fishing for Valentines

admin | February 14, 2010 in Uncategorized | Comments (11)

Nobody wants to be out on the road for every holiday.  But it happens.  I remember having Thanksgiving in hotels attached to small clubs “back in the day,” before we had hits…and before we could say “we aren’t working on Thanksgiving.”

It’s the music business.  It’s SHOW business.  Sometimes, it’s the holiday that makes the show…and sometimes, the show just happens to fall on the holidays.  It’s just how it works with what we do.

Take this morning.  Lots of folks started this morning – (or should have, guys) — with breakfast in bed for their wives.  Kids were waking up moms with homemade Valentines cards, and sweethearts were waking up to deliveries and gifts from admirers known and unknown across the country.

In my world, I woke up from a nap on a bus parked in the middle of the track of the Daytona 500.  Grabbed a cup of coffee from a table in the middle of the parking lot…and stumbled groggily to a flatbed trailer of a stage.  Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors are kicking off the race with songs from our new “Southern Voice” album, it’s on TV, and we’ve got a sound check to do before we perform for an audience.

Valentine's Day: 2010

Not so last year.  We were off…but sitting around at home over Valentine’s weekend, even if I could, wandering back and forth from room to room and intermittently jumping online to be find someone’s idyllic storytelling of romance or syrupy anecdote of the lovelorn rescued by just wasn’t crankin’ my motor.

I did jump online to search “half marathons, February 14.”  I don’t recall finding anything.  I did find a few options for “February 15,” but most were too far from Nashville.  Then I found “Sarasota Grouper Half Marathon”…and a road trip began to form.

A buddy wanted to tag along and visit family in Sarasota, so the drive would be shared.  Another buddy lived there and suggested possibly deep-sea fishing on the Saturday before the February 15 race.  I had really just been looking for a place to run, but in a weird way, it all started to fall together.

Valentine's Day: 2009

Yep. I was goin’ fishing. On Valentine’s Day. To me, it made sense.

Not that I had ever GONE fishing before; I had only the foggiest recollection of going fishing with my grandfather once as a child.  This would be, for all practical purposes, a “first” for me.

I googled “deep sea fishing” and “Sarasota, Florida” and pulled a fishing trip at random.  Placed a call to see if a space was available, as I was going solo.  The fella on the phone didn’t have an opening, but he wandered up and down the pier – (as there are strings of folks that do these all along the coast) – and found a colleague that had a spot.

Awesome; I’d be headed out with Captain Tommy Tinacci from Catch the Spirit Sport Fishing to bring home some amberjack.  I didn’t know what amberjack was, either…but I could google that, too.

I found a description on a website for Light Tackle Fishing in Key West, Florida.  They referred to amberjack as “solid muscle, the “Mike Tyson of the fish world.  According to the site, amberjack “fight dirty and never know when to give up.”  So, if I hooked one of these suckers, it would be between me and him, and I had better be packin’ my “don’t quit.”

Cool; I had already packed it for the half marathon anyway.

I arrive at the dock before dawn for our early morning departure.  Captain Tommy rallied the troops and our boat headed out pronto.  I wasn’t feeling especially chatty and found a corner of the boat where I could embrace the morning wind in my face and the best view of the sunrise.

It was beautifully melancholy and, at the same time, invigorating.  Deep breath. This is good.

After a couple of false starts and “no luck” fishin’ holes, Captain Tommy anchored our boat in what would be my battleground.  He set up a fishing rig for me – (again, I’m the rookie of our crew) – and walked me through the “if you feel this, pull hard to set the hook…and go to work.”

Captain Tommy Tinacci of Catch the Spirit Sport Fishing in Sarasota, Florida.

I felt it.  I pulled hard.  I set the hook.  Here we go.

To say “Jack” was not especially interested in joining me in our boat is an understatement.  When I hooked him, he took off..and fast. I wondered what would happen if he carried out all the line on my reel.  Then he took a turn and I felt the line slack a bit…so I started reeling him in.

I imagined myself on one of those fishing shows on The Outdoor Channel: ride up slowly with the rod, keeping the line taught, then lean forward to create just a hint of give such that I could turn the handle, once, twice, three times perhaps…and do it again.  And again.  And again.

Jack and I had been at it for probably twenty minutes when Captain Tommy offered, “If you are getting tired, you can hand me the rod.”  Seriously?  Not gonna happen.  Look, Cap’n, while I would not pretend to have won every challenging situation I’ve confronted…even when I lose, I don’t go down easily.

Now come here, you rascal! Another twenty minutes and “Jack” was in the boat.  Success.  “Sorry, ‘Jack.’  Oh…and Happy Valentine’s Day.”

The rest of our boat each scored one as well; I was the only one to be catching his first.  And as this trip was “full service,” the captain explained that each of our catches would be filleted and wrapped such that we could carry them home to our respective freezers for a proper dining experience.

Oh.  HUH.  In the eighteen years I’ve lived in Nashville, I’d used my kitchen…let’s see…never.  But after winning the long, hard fight with my saltwater scoundrel, I hardly wanted to find myself deterred by the idea of seeing this journey all the way through.

Stunned at the mere thought, I took my wax-wrapped winnings, iced ’em down in a Styrofoam cooler, and resolved not to even contemplate the next steps until I got home.

Until after the half marathon.  That, I was ready for.  I had the rugged for the run, the strength for the struggle.

But …cooking?

11 Responses to “Fishing for Valentines”

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  1. Comment by Debby Daly — February 14, 2010 at 8:40 pm  

    Hey Jeff! Congrats on your first fish! Wow, the fish is beautiful and a memory you will always remember each Valentine’s Day. Cooking is much easier than a marathon. You will do fine. OBTW, Happy Valentine’s Day. I’m unable to run until May and miss it desperately – looking forward to running with Team McGraw again this year. Happy Days!

  2. Comment by Kathy Brown — February 15, 2010 at 6:56 am  

    Hey Jeff, so let’s see…last year you spent Valentine’s Day fishing and then running a marathon; this year, you spent it performing at the Daytona 500 – YOU POOR MAN!!! Your life sounds sooooo boring…..sounds like every man’s DREAM Valentine’s Day to me….

    I love reading your stories, Jeff. Thanks for sharing!!

    Have a great one…see you on the road!!


  3. Comment by KevinFebruary 15, 2010 at 7:45 am  

    Great story! First you took on a Minnesota skiing/Arizona running weekend…then it was a Florida deep-sea fishing/half marathon run weekend. Hmmm….sounds like a show made for the Outdoor Channel! I guess you could throw in a concert or recording session and put the show on CMT, too!

  4. Comment by JulesFebruary 15, 2010 at 9:07 am  

    Yesterday morning, as I headed off to work, I wondered what adventure you might be partaking after the show at Daytona. Jack is beautiful! For all of us that spent all day Valentine’s Day working, thank you for sharing your adventure. I do so enjoy living vicariously through you especially on my 18-hour work days. I also smile and half giggle of the thought of one day your meeting a young woman and go to share your story of one of the most amazing Valentine’s Day memories you have and the priceless look on her face when she discovers it’s a FISHING story. As for your kitchen, Mr. Road Dog, Bachelor, who has NEVER used his kitchen…I thought I would share this recipe with you. You will need to make sure your kitchen does, however, have a bowl a spoon and a baking dish. (You know, one of those square glass things you put in the oven. Unless of course you have access to a grill; then all you need is foil.)

    2 cloves elephant garlic, finely crushed
    4 oz. new potatoes, diced
    4 oz. onions, diced
    4 oz. amberjack fish, skinned, deboned and diced
    2 oz. butter, melted
    3 oz. all-purpose flour, sifted
    1 oz. regular oats
    3 oz. Cheddar cheese, grated
    Seasoning, according to taste

    Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Using a bowl, combine garlic, new potatoes, onions and amberjack. Season according to taste.
    In a separate bowl, combine flour, oats and half the cheddar cheese. Spoon new potato mixture into an ovenproof dish. Top with the flour mixture and sprinkle on remaining cheese. Bake for 25 minutes until golden. You can also cook it on a grill which is my personal preference.

    Thanks again for the wonderful adventure! Happy belated Valentine’s Day to you, and of course, Jack!

  5. Comment by JennyFebruary 15, 2010 at 3:15 pm  

    I watched you on the Daytona 500; great show!! That is one mighty fine fish you got!! So,when is dinner?? LOL ((HUGS))

    Jenny ; )

  6. Comment by Stacy — February 15, 2010 at 6:02 pm  

    Deep sea fishing and a 1/2 marathon for Valentine’s Day… and who said you needed all that mushy, lovey dovey stuff to have a great day! Ha! Sounds like ol’ Jack gave you a “run” for your money, McMahon! Even more on a positive note is you didn’t even get “seasick” on your first trip out; awesome!! Now what I want to know is if ya ever got ol’ Jack cooked up??? I’ll just tell ya, I cook all the time, been told I’m purty good at it, but fish…heck no. I refuse to cook fish in my kitchen, or anything that once made their home in the water. Whewwwee, stinky, stinky! Now if you ever need a good fried chicken recipe or about anything BUT fish…just let me know!

    Hugs McMahon!

  7. Comment by Chris — February 18, 2010 at 7:50 pm  

    Hey Jeff, LOVING the “Fish Story.” For a beginner, that is Incredible. I love fishing and fish. The best way to cook is baking that guy…savoring all the flavor…that is, IF you really like the oceany fish taste.

    Some bread crumbs, little lemon pepper, and baking at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes on each side, depending on oven heat, and yummmm-o!! We do the best FISH here on the East Coast. Thanks for sharing this inspirational story, too. Quite the catch!

    Waking up at the Daytona 500 not all that bad; at least you were with people who LOVE you and you were doing what you LOVE to Do. That’s what Valentine’s is all about!!!

    See you on the Road this July!!!

    Chris In Mass

  8. Comment by brenda — February 19, 2010 at 12:02 am  

    OMGOOOOSH!! What a great fish story! I love reading your adventures. And kudos on the catch and the marathon! Your endurance amazes me. The sunrise photo is beautiful.


  9. Comment by Cook What You Catch « Road Dog RunnerFebruary 19, 2010 at 4:53 pm  

    […] this point, I’ve already made my way to Florida to spend, or avoid, Valentine’s Day. In less than two days, I’ve gone toe-to…FIN…with a “Mike Tyson-esque” amberjack on my […]

  10. Comment by mike newsomMarch 5, 2010 at 5:42 pm  

    Awesome story, Jeff; I can’t wait ’til I read about our numerous adventures!

  11. Comment by Dancehall Doctor Jeff McMahon Lives Large « Road Dog RunnerJune 1, 2010 at 3:45 pm  

    […] it’s goose hunting in Manitoba, deep sea fishing in Florida, running from rim to rim of the Grand Canyon or serving as director of Team McGraw, a charity that […]

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