Monday, November 24, 2014

At the Fishing Competition

When I was eleven years old, a friend invited me up to her cottage one summer weekend. We had a great time - swimming in the lake, riding around in her dad´s motorboat, running around in the sunshine. And fishing. I´d never been fishing before, but I understood the basics: add worm to hook, drop in water, wait for bite then reel in. Pretty easy.

So my friend and I took our bait and our rods and plonked ourselves down at the end of the dock. The wooden boards were pleasantly warm beneath us. We dangled our feet over the edge, wormed up and threw in our lines.

It didn´t take long to get a nibble. Proud of my great accomplishment, I reeled in my line. There was a sunfish on the end of my hook. I grabbed the fishing glove - a studded green plastic thing that let me hold the fish without getting sliced on its spines. Out came the hook, and I threw my sunfish back in the water.

My friend and I kept fishing. She caught one, and back it went. I got another nibble. I reeled in another sunfish. I peered at it closely.
"I think this is the same fish," I said. "Yes, look, you can see where the hook went through last time." I threw my fish back in. Stupid fish. You would think getting a hook through the face twice in a row would take some of the fun away from eating a delicious worm.

But, no. The sunfish bit my hook again. And again. By now, the hook had emerged out the eye socket, and my poor sunfish was looking pretty grim. I threw him back, put down my rod, and retired from fishing forevermore. Unless I was going to eat the darn thing, I didn´t want to have anything to do with catching fish.

Twenty-five years later, fishing re-entered my life. The sport became fun again, because we on Papillon are strictly trollers - we throw out a line when we are a) sailing, and b) hungry. If we catch something, great. If not, it took no effort on our part.

But this weekend took me back to my first attempts on Rice Lake. It was Fishing Competition time on the island.

Normally, we would say a polite ´no, thank you´ to this sort of activity. Catching animals for fun just doesn´t fill me with the competitive spirit. But events intervened. A friend of ours has a new boat, and asked Erik to go along with him on Saturday. Fine. That makes for a fun day. And the competition organizers made the strategic decision to display all of the prizes behind the sign-up table on Friday night.

Indy beetled over to the racks of fishing rods and bait boxes. "Woooooooow," she breathed, and I knew I was in trouble. "Oh, Mom, look!" She was caressing a tackle box that boasted 250 fishing-related widgets within. She gave me a determined look. "I want to win that tackle box. Let´s sign up for the kids´competiton. Please?"
I´m sure I made a face, because one of my friends leaned over and whispered, "It´s two hours on Saturday morning. The bus picks us up, they serve pancakes and ice cream, and you´ll be home by 10:30."


Stylish, however, was not so keen. "I do not want to get up early on a Saturday to go fishing," she said. Her image flickered briefly as I saw the teenager she was to become. "No. I´m not going."
"Yep. You´re going," I said. I tried out the pancakes-and-ice-cream line that had worked so well on me. Stylish was unmoved. Lucky for me, she is still only ten and I can boss her around. She went.

We arrived at the pier at 8am. The sun was already punishing. We haven´t had a breath of wind this week, and the temperature regularly feels like it is in the low 40s C / 105-110 F. Indy was undeterred - she wanted that tackle box. Stylish remained annoyed with me, but was willing to give it a go, provided I stayed at least fifty feet away at all times. The price you pay.

Erik and the other grown-up competitors decided to stick around to watch/help/take over for the kids, which was fun. Indy immediately designated Dad as her underling.
"Come on, Dad, get that chicken on there and let´s get going!"
And she fished.
And she fished.
 And she fished.

The trouble was, Indy couldn´t stay still for a moment. She moved her line, she bobbed the rod, she walked back and forth on the pier. Any fish trying to eat her bait would have gotten too tired trying to catch her and given up. So poor Indy struck out.

Stylish was much more patient - not that it helped. I documented her efforts from my mandatory distance.

Late in the competition, Stylish was feeling friendlier towards me again, and I was invited to approach. She had abandoned fishing as a bad job, and was now using her hook to feed her bait to the shy crabs that lined the pier.
The crabs loved the chicken, and Stylish was far more entertained by them than by the elusive fish.
A few kids got lucky over the course of the morning. One four-year-old reeled in a stonefish. Thankfully she didn´t get stung - stonefish are nasty creatures. We always wear watershoes to avoid them.
Don´t step on me or you will be very sorry.
A pancake, an ice cream and many bottles of water later, we sent the adult competitors off to do their thing. The girls were a little glum that they hadn´t caught anything, but I was just as happy I hadn´t had to removed hooks from any fishy eyeballs.
Erik came home at dusk, covered in fish blood. There is a fillet at our friends´ house with our name on it. They didn´t win the competition, but it was a good day on the water. Indy gave her tackle box a last, loving pat at the awards dinner in the park yesterday, and now we have a piece of fish to enjoy one night this week. Sounds good enough to me.


Anonymous said...

Great Grandpa would have been proud of both girls.

Anonymous said...

Great Grandpa would have been proud of both girls.

Nicolas Turcotte said...

entertaining story with suspense! thanks :)

Karen said...

OMG that stonefish is grotesque. That is very lucky that the four-year-old did not get stung!!!

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

When I was little and probably dressed in pink I caught the trout of the season. My aunt had me bring it out of the fridge to show off everytime a guest arrived. We didn't live on a boat. It was high up in the Rockies

Little Red and the Wolf said...

I too would have been lured in by the ice cream. Fresh fish also sounds yummy. Good on wrangling Stylish to go, I find myself losing that battle more are more.