I have never been a fisherman. I have never even claimed to be a fisherman, but when we rented a cabin next the beautiful Chrystal Lake here in Colorado, I thought what could go wrong. I will get to spend some quality time with my seven year old daughter and enjoy some fresh air.
When we arrived I unpacked and dutifully carried the six hundred pounds of fishing tackle, rods, line, chairs, floaties, seat cushions, fish decoys, cinder blocks, and whatever else the local fishing shop told me I would need, down to the river bank and set up shop.
My daughter stood next to me giddy with anticipation, and once we had our gear set, she watched as I cast the first line into the water. Immediately we got a bite and I set the hook … into nothing. I reeled the line in, re-baited the hook (since the thieving fish managed to make off with my worm) and tried again, optimistic at our chances. This pattern repeated itself six or seven hundred thousand more times and I decided maybe I was doing something wrong. Perhaps the worms had turned. My daughter had long ago been distracted from the whole ordeal by the promise of mud pies and Barbies, and I had cast my line so many times my rotator cuff was threatening to pull the pin and walk out.
I sighed and checked the little white worm tub for an expiration date (just in case) then figured I would give it one more try before calling it a day. Wouldn’t you know it … fish on!
It gave up a good fight, but within a few seconds, I managed to reel in the monster trout, all four and three quarter inches of it. Apparently all of the big fish had gone home, leaving one skinny, pathetic looking straggler to catch my line. I could have put it in a fish bowl and had room for three more.
My daughter saw all of the excitement and came over to see what was happening. At first she was amazed, laughing with glee, then she realized that I was holding a living creature skewered on the end of a hook. A flood of childhood tears ensued and she went running for the cabin. Just call me father of the year.
It occurred to me that I should have thought things out a little better. Not only had I sent my daughter running in tears to the cabin, but now I was holding my prize four and three quarter inch fish, and I had no idea what to do with it. I had worked out the catching part, and I had mastered the eating part years ago. But how it got from point A to point C was a complete mystery to me. I had never gutted a fish. My fish came in a box, covered in little ice crystals and breading.
I looked around like an idiot. Me and my four and three quarter inch fish dangling from my hand. Thankfully I saw a friend coming to the rescue. Unlike me, Laura was an avid fisher-woman and had no doubt been drawn by the call of my still waling child.
“Did you get the hook out?” she asked, as she walked up to meet me. I looked down at the fish and the fish looked back at me, I’m pretty sure it was thinking something like ‘Duh’.
My friend Laura managed to pull the hook out with some sort of archaic dental/torture device made of rod iron and barbed wire (see previous blog), then she handed the fish back to me. She eyed me as she clasped my hands around the four and three quarter inch trout, the way a parent might teach a toddler to hold onto something important.
“Now hold on tight,” she said, then she turned away to pull something out of the pouch at her waist. I had no idea what she was about to do next. I thought maybe she was afraid my prize was going to escape. Perhaps she had a little cage in her pouch or something.
Before I go on, let me pause for a moment and describe Laura to you. She is a kind woman. Her voice is quiet and reserved. She is the sort of person who lets the bugs fly free from her window and sings to the birds in the trees.
Needless to say, when she swung the forty five pound screwdriver handle into the trout’s head it came as a bit of a shock. The fish did indeed make its escape, but it did not get far. I caught it before it could hit the ground. Unfortunately my slack grip had also allowed the fish to avoid Laura’s death blow.
“You have to hold on tight!” Laura growled, and something in her eyes finished the sentence with … or else!
I did as she commanded and Laura began her impression of Robert De Niro in the baseball bat scene of The Untouchables. Wack … wack … wack …. wack. Fish blood flew everywhere. It streaked my shirt and pants like a murder scene in a C.S.I. episode. It was a horror move gone terribly wrong.
When the violence subsided I opened my eyes and wouldn’t you know it, my wife had calmed my daughter down, and brought her back to see the fish again. On the up side my daughter wasn’t crying any more. She was too busy staring at us in sheet white horror. Just call her the mother of the year. I’m sure the nightmares will end soon.
Once my wife had ushered her back into the cabin for therapy, I took my handful of fish goo down to the water to wash it off. As a squatted down to the lake side, the fish had one last surprise up what was left of its little fishy fin.
Through no fault of my own! (or so I claim) … The fish jumped out of my hand and into the water. I tried to catch it again but when I wrapped my hand around the thing just squished out like some kind of slimy … well fish.
I watched as it spiraled down into the deep, away from the shore and my dinner plate. I looked back at Laura, and for a second I had a vision of that scene in The Untouchables again, this time with me as the guy at the table, but she just laughed, absently cleaning her implement of fish murder on an old rag.
We all laughed about it that night around the fire, and my daughter swore she would never eat a fish again. I hope she never asks me where hamburgers come from.
I know there has to be a million fish stories out there. I would love to hear them, especially if they make me feel better about my own pathetic skills.
See you soon and happy reading