Thursday, August 07, 2008


We caught fish! Jake, Logan (his friend) and I went out in high tide yesterday afternoon caught fish.

Not a fish.

Not a tiny fish, but four decent sized mackerel. At least I think it was mackerel- I’ve never fished in the ocean before. We brought out a can of baby clams, stuck them on the hook and cast the line. After many unfruitful trips out, I did not expect to catch anything but seaweed.

Tug, tug… and then the arc of the pole…

Our- yes, mine, too- shouts of glee did not tip over the boat. We looked at the fish. Touched the fish and then let the fish go.

It was Logan’s first two fish ever. Jake’s second, and third. We could have stayed out all afternoon, if the tide wasn’t slipping away.

I loved to fish as a kid. We would go down to Holmes Pond, digging some worms along the way, and grab the poles Mr. Holmes had made from sticks and some fishing line attached at the end. It was for us to use, and he had shown us how to put a worm on the hook, wrapping it to disguise the hook, careful not to hook ourselves. We pulled up bluegills and sunfish, just dangling our lines off the dock.

One by one, we would catch fish and save the few we thought big enough to cook over our campfire, toss the others back to catch again in a few moments. I knew how to bone, and filet a fish. It never made me feel bad for the fish. I knew I was using it, tossing the guts into our neighbors garden compost pile.

I went out once with my Uncle Rex when I was a little girl. He was my father’s older brother and a quiet, gentle man. He also loved to hunt deer and catch fish. He took me out one morning, pre-dawn, because, as he told me, that’s when the fish were biting.

He taught me to be very quiet. To pull the line gently, luring the fish. Never tug. You’ll end up with a hook in the side of a fish. Be patient. It may take all morning, it may take all week, but you will get one.

And then, after hours, he rowed me back to my father, in his underwear, at the table.

It was a week we spent at the murky, weed-choked end of one of the Finger Lakes. My father had rented a cottage with a shore that locked us on land. I had my mother’s critical eye- how could he be so stupid? Why was everywhere he took us so dirty?

Fishing was lost to me that week, years ago.

Today, the three of us were on the boat, the boys laughing and giggling and fighting over the single fishing rod, all at the same time. I rowed to where ever they wanted. The sun has disappeared again but the water was calm.

The first tug was certain to be seaweed until it wasn’t. The boys screeched and we delighted and terrified by the eight inch flapping monster of a mackerel. They felt how smooth he was, once I had removed the hook.

Then they wanted to keep it for a pet.

Maybe dinner.

It was too small, I said and tossed it back in the water. It’s also not a toy. You need to send them back if you don’t want to eat them.

Each boy caught two fish. I saw the rocks growing dark lines from the receding tide on the island nearby. Life is not always fair but with these two boys, destine for a lifetime friendship, it was even steven.

We rowed back and the fish they caught grew, and grew as we got closer and closer to shore.

Now you are real fisherman, I said. Real fishermen tell tall stories about the fish they caught.

They laughed and the fish became bigger than the boat.

As they scrambled up the rocks shouting of their accomplishment, the other grownups looked at me for the reality- was it a minnow?

No, I said, they caught some serious fish today.

I set out this afternoon to paddle around with the boys and a fishing rod. Next time, I will bring a bucket, a net and a pair of pliers. My love of fishing, tucked away and obscured by my father’s shadow, has come out again. I found the little girl on Holmes Pond,

My son and his best pal caught fish. There was no better a view on this whole coast than the delight in their faces. I found one of those buried pieces of myself in their smiles.

I love to fish.

And I just fell a little more in love with this place.


Blogger Suzy said...

Holmes Pond brings back alot of memories. I just remember being afraid to swim because of the snapping turtle monster.

Then there were the midnight strolls to the peach orchard.

I like the happy childhood memories much better and that place helped me survive the horror of life at home. Plus somebody I know taught me a thing or two lol.


10:09 AM  
Anonymous Morgan said...

One of my fondest memories of my grandmother is watching her chase grasshoppers across the field as we walked to the pond to fish. We would sit on the sloped bank with our cane poles holding the bobber, talking about all sorts of things in hushed tones. Back at the house with our catch, we would clean our fish out by the burn pile. The barn cats, who were normally wild as could be, would come up for all the inners. Triggers. Everything in our life triggers memories, some good, some not so good, of the impressions of our childhood. Thank you for sharing the good and not so good. And get more poles!

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, triggers are everywhere, and some years they tend to pop up so much more often than others.

For me, this post brings up deep longing for friends lost. You know, the pals you shared so much with, loved so dearly, laughed, cried, giggled and whispered with, and thought you'd be in touch with for life. And not just the childhood pals, but those from college and well past college, too. For some reason, my more recently lost friendships, from just a decade ago, leave the most painful gaps.

Ahhh, well, life moves on, but... I miss you, old friend.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous donald said...

listening to the joy and excitement in their voices last evening as they were telling the stories of the fish they caught, was worth its weight in gold. i can remember jake catching his first fish off my dock, and how excited he was. get the camera, go tell walter, can we keep it? and now logan will have that first fish caught memory for the rest of his life! special moments, special times, special friends!! life is good!

10:22 PM  
Blogger Sue J said...

That made me smile and remember: 7 years old, fishing with my dad and brothers. everyone catching sunfish. then I caught a pike.

Heh heh heh ....

10:01 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

and pike was somethin' to keep... I remember how bony those sunfish were!

I think Jake and Logan will be the best of friends their whole lives. At least I hope so.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

and hello? could I have written "hook" one more time?

this is the problem with writing on an almost completely dimmed computer screen. I can't see it when I'm done!

I guess it's time to up the font size, eh?

4:23 PM  
Anonymous donald said...

bob and mary tell me the fish the boys caught were harbor pollack.

9:53 PM  
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