A few weeks ago, I got my FHB his annual fishing license. It is usually a Father’s Day gift but now that he is around town on Fridays, it seemed like a waste of weeks to not present him with the opportunity to go out and play with the fishes. The weather has not been cooperating, going from winter like temperatures to blazing heat. May is a funny month. He tends to approach things with metered steps and so the fish are still safe from his pursuit of things scale-y and slippery, for the moment.
It was a shame that my father, who liked throwing a line into a lake, ocean or river, never met my FHB. They probably would have enjoyed one another’s company and both have this zen like approach to the art of the catch. It’s not about the fish as it is about the fishing. As I kid, I got to observe my father fish and I was the child who didn’t mind digging for worms. Sometimes I even got paid a penny a worm. I watched as he secured the line, cast the line into the water, and waited for that little tug on the end of the fishing pole. He would gently reel in the line at the start and then as he felt the weight of the fish, he would reel it in more quickly. My FHB likes to fly fish as well as casting into ponds, and uses my father’s rod and reel which would have pleased my dad to no end. I had the opportunity to join my father, as the person who rowed the boat to the middle of a lake, in the early morning hours as well as being on a party boat that went into the ocean off of Long Island. I didn’t own or inherit a pole but once in a while I got to feel the tug of the fish. I accompany my FHB but more as a distant observer. He is a solitary fisherman and I give him his space to cast and wait, and wait, and wait. In our years together, the number of fish that felt sorry for him and jumped on the hook were less than could be counted on two hands. Several years ago in New Hampshire I heard him call me to come and see his catch. He triumphantly displayed a small, actually tiny fish, about four inches long who looked up with those big fish eyes, imploring him to throw him back. I made sounds of great approval and memorialized the moment in a photo and the fish was released back into the wild. I returned to my book, under a tree, only to be called yet again to see fish number two, followed by fish number three. A little Dr. Seuss-ish. I have an eye for details and my gut told me that this fish looked awfully familiar and if I was correct, my FHB did not catch three fish, but one fish three times. I kept this information to myself. I don’t like to spoil someone’s moment in nature.
My own fish story goes back to when I was about ten and our family and my parents’ close friends and their son, went to Canada. We went to Lac Chat in the Laurentians, as this was the place that both couples had met on their honeymoon. The lake was filled with sunfish or as my father would call them “sunnies”. I didn’t have a pole but the fish swam around my feet and I was able to reach down and catch one with my hands. I took my prize and ran back to the cabin. I knew the taste of victory and as this was day two of our vacation, I put the fish in a drawer in the bedroom because my plan was to bring it back to New York and show my friends. Needless to say, I didn’t mention it to my parents or my sister, since I wanted to bring it back to New York as my souvenir. I checked on it frequently to make sure it was still there. After about two or three days, my mother said to my father that something reeked. My mother was not much of a fan of dead fish and living with a recreational fisherman led her to set clear parameters of bringing fish home, gutted and cleaned, before he crossed the doorway. My father just took her comments as more of the same. I had to admit that after a few warm days in the drawer the fish just didn’t look so good and smelled even worse. However, I was dogged about keeping my prize. The fish remained there and decomposing until day four when my mother insisted that my father find the source of the now pretty rank odor. Long fish story short….my secret was revealed. My father and I had one of those conversations that I now recognize as a parent’s moment when you want to laugh and hug your child but you need to have that serious talk about poor decisions. I know he thought I was enterprising but the smell of bleach still lingers because that was part of my penance.
The one that almost got away, or the one I almost got away with.