Fish Tales Part II

For the Memoir Group, I decided to write about some of my fishing experiences from the years 1965 to 1968. There were two brothers who were part of our little band of anglers, this is a story of some of their adventures.

Fish Tales II – The Swiller Brothers
There was a stretch of years where my friends and I were confronted with a serious logistical problem once fishing season began. The nearest trout stocked lakes and streams were at least an hour’s drive from our homes, and none of us drove. It would be 5 to 8 years before any of us would see a driver’s permit.

Undaunted, we would spend many hazy, lazy, crazy days of our school summer vacation, laden with fishing rods and tackle boxes, hiking to Saddle River or Dahnert’s Lake. Rumor had it the Saddle River was trout stocked. Another story, passed from a dubious source, went so far to say that salmon could be caught in the river as well. Let it be known, 54 years after the fact, that three years of dropping a baited hook in that meandering brook, revealed there were surely no trout in it, and salmon? Give me a break! We certainly did catch fish, a lot of fish, however it was that oily, bottom feeding species known as carp. Both the common carp and goldfish. Not trout, the catch & throw back carp.

The knowledge that it was highly unlikely our excursions to Saddle River, and later Dahnert’s Lake, would yield any edible fish did not diminish our spirits. As long as the Swiller brothers (name changed to protect the guilty) were part of our hearty band of anglers, we could count on plenty of entertainment. The antics and mishaps of the Swiller’s, Cliff and his younger brother Robert, are recalled with fond amusement to this day.

The Swiller boys were a disagreeable duo. To each other that is, they were never in agreement on any topic. They would argue and needle until one would take a swing at the other and then all hell would break loose. Brothers always fight, some pushing and shoving maybe, but the Swillers would really hit each other, like bare knuckle boxers. Being three years older and with a longer reach, Cliff would always get the better of his brother. After a smack to the ear, Robert would begin to emit a low moan which got progressively louder, culminating in a bellowing cry, almost like those old police sirens. The rest of us would stand there in shock at first, then cover our ears. Cliff would eventually comfort Robert and the crying would stop almost as quickly as it started. On average, this scenario would would play out 2 or 3 times on each fishing trip.

Perhaps the most curious occurrence on these fishing trips was that one the Swillers would always end up in the water. During a trip to the Saddle River, Cliff expressed a desire to claim a prime fishing spot and took off at a sprint, yelling taunts at us over his shoulder. The river flowed at the bottom of a slight bluff. Cliff badly misjudged his forward momentum and skittered down the bluff, finally stopping when he was waist deep in the water. His emergence from the river revealed mud encased sneakers looking more like Frankenstein shoes, which his brother began to giggle at. Fortunately, Robert was able to dodge Cliff’s ill aimed swipe at his ears sparing us from hearing his siren wail. On a fishing excursion to Dahnert’s Lake, Robert inexplicably ran off stone wall right into the lake. He then lost his footing on the slippery bottom, went under and came back up sputtering water out of his mouth. We helped him out of the water and the moment he was on solid ground, he expressed his gratitude by emitting that ear splitting siren scream cry. We wanted to shove him back in the lake, but Cliff again managed to settle him down and Robert fished away in his soaking wet clothes.

It was always our belief that fish resided in the deepest parts of the river and lake. We would weigh down our fishing lines with at least ten pounds of sinkers so our casts would land as close as possible to our intended catch. Standing on the shore of the Saddle River and desirous of his baited hook reaching the place where the fish obviously were, Robert crimped half a dozen small sinkers to his fishing line and, to 100% guarantee a successful cast, added a pyramid shaped one ounce sinker to the collection. The line slipped from his finger as he swung his rod over his shoulder, the weighted conglomeration flew backwards and struck his brother in the mouth. Cliff screeched “Owww”, his hand clasped his face and he doubled over. We ran to see if he was okay.
Except for Robert, he stood frozen in place, whimpering.

Circled by his fishing friends, Cliff straightened to a standing position and lowered his hand from his face to reveal a swollen lip, with a little trail of blood trickling from a small split. “You thtoopid idiot,” Cliff’s swollen lip making him lisp, “I’m gonna kill you!” Pushing us aside, he took off for his brother. Robert let out a scream, dropped his fishing pole and began running away fast as he could. Cliff’s long legged strides quickly closed the distance between them. With the inevitability of being caught by his brother and getting his ears boxed, Robert took what he felt was the best course of action and ran pell mell into the river. His plan worked because Cliff didn’t follow him. They stood looking at each other, gulping huge breaths of air.

“We should go home, Cliff, your lip is bleeding,” offered Robert.

“Yeah, I need to put thome ithe on it,” lisped his brother.

Cliff’s anger appeared to have deflated, but we all decided to leave with them to prevent any further bloodshed should emotions run hot again.

Never a dull moment fishing with the Swillers, more tales for another day.

My Great Uncle Louie provided us with the ideal recipe for a Carp meal:

3/4 to 1 lb. of Carp filet, make sure all of the bones are removed.
1 thin cedar plank, approximately 12 inches long. 2 tablespoons of olive oil. 1/2 teaspoon of salt. 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. 1/4 teaspoon of paprika. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place Carp filets on cedar plank. Place plank in oven and bake for 30 minutes. When bake time is over, remove the plank from the oven, throw the Carp in the trash and eat the plank.

Ernie Stricsek
Chatham Memoir Group

6 thoughts on “Fish Tales Part II

    1. Hi Nancy. I am glad you liked my story! The first fish I caught that was edible was a sunfish. We caught a lot of them too. My grandmother cleaned and fried them, there were about a dozen. They are really bony fish and not very big.


  1. Fishing is a great recipe for childhood memories. Wonderful story, Ernie. My version of carp was rock bass on the St. Lawrence River. But we also got some good perch (skinned, dipped in peameal and fried in bacon grease).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you John! We would catch an occasional sunfish, bony but edible. We never caught enough out of the Saddle River or Dahnert’s Lake to make a meal.


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