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Castaway : It's Not the Fish, It's the Fishing That Does the Trick

October 20, 1985|KIEL MARTIN | Kiel Martin plays J. D. LaRue on the NBC television series "Hill Street Blues."

"Thanks for inviting me to write about fishing for your magazine. If this had come 20 years ago, I'd have said yes at the drop of a Royal Coachman fly. However, it has been quite some time since I went fishing; my days seem to be filled with golf and travel now. Perhaps you could ask some of the boys on 'Hill Street Blues' if they like to fish.


Fred MacMurray"

"I first went fishing with my grandmother at a pond in Pennsylvania when I was 6 or 7. I remember her 1951 Plymouth, which got us there, and a row of jury-rigged shelters at the water's edge. When I asked who used them, my grandmother said: 'Poor people.' And they were--'poor people' overnight fishing for catfish and carp. In the years since, I've envied them their lean-tos and small fires. And from that moment to this, I've sought the serenity that I felt emanating from those shacks.

I don't remember fishing again until I was 11. That year, 1956, my father had loaded my mother, brother and me into the car and moved us to Florida. I went to school in Miami and spent afternoons (some of them AWOL from school) standing on the L-shaped counterweight under the drawbridge at the center of town, fishing for river mullet. After I'd caught a few, I'd build a fire and skewer them on sticks and coat hangers. Then, while the counterweight rocked me, moving up and down with the opening and closing of the bridge, I'd eat and daydream.

Also that year, a friend of my father took my family deep-sea fishing. I caught a 5 1/2-foot sailfish and was pleased with myself. But even as I was planning my career as a fisherman, the first mate did his thing and bashed the fish in the head with a belaying pin. My career plans came to an end. The violence of that necessary act was more than I'd bargained for.

Now, I most love to fish on quiet lakes, rivers and streams, though I do ocean fishing in Baja three or four times a year. I have a little house on the Sea of Cortez, and, during short breaks when we're not filming 'Hill Street' and for a few weeks every summer, I go down there. I eat, sleep, read and fish--in no particular order and at whatever time it suits me. On rare occasions, I've even gone out on trips after the big ones. But the real thrill for me is to get in my 16-foot aluminum boat with my neighbor, Zeke, and roar out to sea with the speed that only a 10-horsepower Johnson-Evinrude can deliver, drop a line in the water and go to sleep.

As I write this, I'm looking out to sea from the front window of my Baja house. I've been here for a week and must leave tomorrow. Couldn't fish today--engine problems. I took the motor over to Xavier's house, and he replaced the gas line with one that worked--at least until I got it home. But that's OK. I've fished three times this week and caught fish twice. It doesn't matter. For me, it isn't the fish; it's the fishing that does the trick. Fishing gives me a moment's peace in an otherwise turbulent world. Maybe I'll stay one more day." PRODUCED BY LINDEN GROSS / PHOTOGRAPHS BY BOB ROWE

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