Decades ago, around age 6 or 7, I’d say, my sister and my parents and I were out on a lake in northern Ontario. We were in our red canoe, my mom at the bow, my father in the stern, and my sister and I at the bottom on either side of the middle thwart.
We were all fishing, but since we were so young, my dad gave us kids rods without reels. We knew pretty much nothing about fishing, except that we should be quiet. Nemmy and I sat as still as we could, with our hooks dangling beneath the canoe, listening to the gentle “whirr” of my dad’s rod when he would cast.
Suddenly, there was a tug on my line. A mighty pull. I think I started to pull the rod up, but a second later, a shining body leapt out of the water and flashed in the sun. It landed with a great splash and my line went light. Gone was the fish − a pike, I should think − and gone was the hook.
And that was the last time I caught a fish.
I went fishing a few more times on family camping trips. And there was that deep-sea fishing experience in PEI the summer before grade 12, where everyone on the boat caught something. Except for me.
I was convinced that mighty northern pike had cursed me for trying to hook him. None of his fishy brethren would ever come near me again.
These past 6 months have been very heavy for me as Michael and I begin the process of separation and divorce. It has been an intense period for many reasons and I have had some very dark and broken days. Part of my strategy to redefine myself is to do things I have always wanted to do, but never have got around to. Last Saturday, for example, I went on a 6-hour solo hike up a mountain. I don’t think I’ve ever actually done that before.
Earlier this week, I contacted my friend Valery and asked her to take me fishing. And tonight we did just that.
We drove out the Hidden Lakes, a couple of which are stocked with rainbow trout and kokanee. Valery explained how to rig and bait my line for trout and showed me how to cast. She said that since it had been such a warm day, the fish might not actually come close enough to shore to bite, but we’d have a nice evening out, at least. Since I had no expectations, that was fine by me.
A wee 4-incher nibbled at Valery’s line early in the evening. After that, the fish were pretty quiet, though we enjoyed the company of a loon calling a few times, and a beaver and a muskrat showed up, as well. Valery would tell me little bits about fish behaviour in between casts, and I worked on getting my hook out a decent distance from shore.
And then suddenly, there was a tug on my line.
I wasn’t sure at first that it was a fish. Perhaps my hook was simply caught on an underground log. But the waters near the shore are clear and in moments, I could see the silver body of a rainbow trout fighting the pull of my line. Moments later, I had landed it on the shore.
Valery was every bit as delighted as I was. She showed me how to bleed it, and then she also showed me how to clean it properly. It was a female trout (Valery showed me the roe!) and 13 inches, so not huge, but a respectable size so everyone in the family can have a taste at dinner time tomorrow. We’d have taken a picture at the lake, but neither of us had a working picture-taking apparatus. So this kitchen shot will have to do, instead:
Thank you, Ms. Trout, for the gift of your life. Thank you for breaking the curse, and thank you for feeding my family.
And thanks to Valery for showing me the “ropes”.