Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Saturday was free fishing day at all the urban lakes, so I persuaded my man to take our kids angling.
While her big brother, sister, Mama and Papa fished in turns, Ella held a worm she named Batman in her hands. He stretched himself, compacted and wriggled and almost fell out of her hands. She asked me if I wanted to hold him, but I declined, petting his smooth body with one finger.
A fish jumped out of the water, and she cried, "I'm glad that fish didn't jump out and eat Batman!"
The fishing was tough. We didn't catch a thing except memories, though we got to the park early after picking up the bait.
Matthew asked Daniel and Ella if they wanted to hold the bait, and then he dropped them gently into their hands. Daniel dumped the squirming creatures immediately. Batman was one of the fattest worms Ella got to hold, and she held him and powdered him with moist earth until our patience with the catfish had worn out.
"Can I keep him?" she asked as we packed up.
"No," I said gently.
"We are not keeping a worm as a pet," said Papa less gently.
We released him in the flower pot at home against my better judgment. It didn't turn out so well for Batman and his friends in this blasted heat. They're fertilizer now. Ella doesn't know.
I bet my brother Nate wouldn't go fishing with me again. For the memories.
Once we were at a pond or lake just outside Clarksville, Tennessee, and Natie laid his pole out on the ground to straighten his line and adjust the bait on his hook. My parents had told me several times to be alert, but I came by and tripped over his line, sinking the hook into his finger. His shout of pain brought my dad running. Nate got the barb out quickly, but it didn't save me from a well deserved rebuke for my chronic clumsiness.
Years later we were at one of many lakes near our campsite at my grandfather's gold claim in Idaho. Nate was baiting my line and advising me on technique. Be patient. Reel in slowly. If you feel a bite, don't jerk the line; tug gently so you don't sink the hook too deeply.
But I over do everything, so when I felt a bite I jerked my pole as if the ground had suddenly pitched beneath me, calling for Natie to come as I reeled it in. The fish was a skinny, short thing flapping about. Nate dug for that hook valiantly, but I had snagged it good.
"Hillary, I told you not to jerk on the line!"
I babbled apologies, feeling terrible for the little fish. Finally he gave up, found a fist-sized rock.
"Turn around," he told me. "I'm going to have to put it out of its misery."
Poor Nate, such a sissy for a sister! I cried as I turned away. I heard the stone hitting the earth, and when I looked back at my brother, his face was grim but the line was cut. The tiny catch was thrown back in the lake, not the intended Catch and Release.
Fishing is a patience game and can be as frustrating as a round of golf. You like the idea of it until you're 15 over. What you need is experience and a good arm. My son Berto beamed and looked toward us every time he cast on Saturday, and the line whipped through the air far out into the lake. My husband and I beamed back and gave him thumbs up, but though his bobber found the water where the fish had been jumping, he got no bites. He needs more fishing.
I wish he could train at the elbow of his great-uncles on my dad's side. They are all excellent fishermen and hunters. They are always going on grand outdoor adventures, bringing home photos of themselves smiling and holding up their prizes or kneeling by them, clutching antlers in both hands. They post them on Facebook and make their friends jealous.
Me? I stink. The most pleasure I have ever had fishing was in a stream up by Horseshoe Bend, Idaho. I found a sweet spot on a large stone in the middle of the slow current. There I sat alone with the summer breeze, in the water up to my knees and ample shade from the trees above me. I don't believe I was really trying, and I doubt there was anything but minnows nipping at my boots. The serenity of the setting, however, could have kept me there all day with nary a flirtation.
The draw of the bite and the hope for a "Big one" will get you out the door and on the road to nowhere before dawn. The more you go fishing, I'll wager, the more you think Next time! or Bigger yet. But what I love best about fishing is the conversation with nature and the bonding with family (Right, Natie?).
That's why I hope we get at least our oldest two fishing licenses this year. Oh, to have the chance to say often, as a fact of life, "Sorry, we can't. Goin fishing."