21st Century Renaissance Man

Nov 24, 2014

The Summer I Learned to Fish

I never learned to fish when I was young. I have been fishing numerous times throughout my adult life, however as a father of four the majority of these trips were spent untangling line, bating hooks and being asked when we were going to eat lunch.  Now approaching forty, having just one actual catch to my credit, I had never fully understood the obsession my extended family has with fishing. My uncles and aunts would spend countless hours at the lake side each family reunion quietly waiting for their bobber to disappear under the water and scream with childlike delight “I got a nibbler”.

This summer was different; my children now old enough to spend their days at the beach searching for summer romance, I found myself with plenty of free time and decided it was time to discover for myself where the fascination for fishing came from. I purchased a new pole, some gear and a hat that reminded me of the one Brad Pitt wore in “A River Runs Through it” deciding that if I was to be a bad fisherman, I would still look good doing it.  

I set my chair up on the bank alongside my family members and spent the first couple hours looking busy and trying to strike up conversations with anyone who would reply with more than a grunt or a polite “please shut up” smile.  I discovered that people who enjoy fishing do not like to talk and, being a hyper-extravert, this only led me to question weather I should have just learned to play Pinnacle with Grandma instead. 

I decided to persevere and three days into Family Reunion I had managed to waste a lot of worms, smoke a lot of cigarettes and acquire a nasty sunburn on my upper arm.  Frustrated with my abilities and having suffered a plethora of jibes at my hat, I decided it was time to ask for help. 

I went to my uncle Leonard who describes himself as: half Hawaiian, half Mexican and all Fisherman.  We had all joked that his fishing pole must have been cut from an ancient tree in Valhalla by Odin himself and only a true god could wield its spectacular power.  While the rest of us waited hours for the slightest tap on our lines, he was pulling fish out the lake with every cast.

Leonard gently took me under his wing and showed me the finer points of rigging my pole, casting and how to know where to fish at what times of the day.  He then pulled from his pocket a roll of dental floss and told me “everything aside, this is the secret to good fishing”.  I could not comprehend how oral hygiene could possibly improve my fishing, but I had a piece of beef jerky stuck in my back tooth and thought that maybe this lesson may be helpful no matter what, but then he took a small piece and tied it after about twenty feet line.
“You see” he said, “the dental floss stops the moving bobber at the depth you set it at, when you find where the fish are just keep going back to that same spot”.  

He went on to explain that since fish swim in schools you only need to find where they are according to the time of day (morning, afternoon and night) and then continue to fish at the same depth.  “If you stop catching fish”, he motioned, “just move the dental floss up or down to find where they moved too”.

With my pole now set up correctly and Uncle Leonard’s Miracle Fish Floss tied to my line, I went back to my chair and began to experiment. With in the next two hours I began catching fish and I realized why a person would enjoy it.  There is an instinctual rush of adrenalin that happens when you seize your next meal.  It reminds you that life can be much simpler than cell phones, emails, bills and deadlines; I am hungry and I have conquered nature to quench my hunger.

Although I did not learn to fish when I was young, I believe that as an adult I could fully comprehend the fulfillment that comes from “landing a big one”.  Had I not continued to learn to fish I would have never experienced the wonderful fun and peace it brings.  I no longer wear the hat, but I catch the fish and if you come to the banks of the Siskiyou Lake every summer you might even hear me screaming in childhood delight “I got a nibbler!”

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