Fishing is generally reserved for outdoorsy people who are patient and entirely comfortable and committed to standing all day long with worm guts underneath their nails, the scent of fish lingering heavily on their…well, everything. People who can wear old, outdated jeans (unbelievable) that have become their “fishing” jeans out in public with muddied shoes and lure-encrusted hats and not feel horrified. These people might buy bait at Wal-Mart and aren’t overly paranoid that someone might snap their photo to be featured on the next edition of “People of Wal-Mart.”
None of this describes me, so imagine my surprise when I found myself the ecstatic recipient of a fishing pole for my birthday this year. Not remotely an avid fisherwoman, I was unable to even identify a box of fishing line upon unwrapping it, putting it together only when presented with a pole next. I was assured it was “a good one,” but with its glittery green sheen and smooth reeling, I knew it couldn’t be too bad.
Plus it was really shiny.
Holding the soft cork handle in my (newly-manicured) fingers, I was reminded of my former teenage hobby of pinning favorite pastimes and memories onto a huge corkboard in a mosaic fashion. Fishing had been absent on that board, but now here I would soon be, instead pinning worms on hooks to be sent to watery graves.
What strides I’ve made in life!
Owning a fishing pole was the first acknowledgement my hobbies were beginning to more freely revolve around the rustic, especially seeing as other birthday gifts were a set of golf clubs and a four-wheeler I got to borrow from a friend to celebrate the occasion.
Outwardly appearances aside, I am not quite the girly girl I used to be, and I like to think I am working constantly toward a new and improved me. Someone who could survive in the woods after dark without (as many) irrational fears (Sasquatch) and someone who can hold her own talking golf and fishing in a board meeting filled with 55-year-old male engineers. I suppose this is all fine, as I have a distinct feeling who’s still vying for the win on the Bachelorette or what Dairy Queen dessert has the least calories (dilly bars) will never be the hot topics I wish them to be.
I used to fish every once and awhile with my family as a kid and remember snagging a sunfish out of the middle of the lake with my Donald Duck pole, droplets of glistening water catching the sun’s rays – and my attention – for one brief second before the helpless fish flopping on the bottom of the boat disheartened me. The last time I was out with my brother, we caught absolutely nothing except a case of the boredoms. Not exactly a great start to fishing becoming my great new passion.
Then Clayton, with his boat, huge tackle box that takes me two hands to lug to the water’s edge, and easy ways of explaining the sport came along, his experience and love for it igniting an interest that grows in me each time we head out, poles in one hand, hand-in-hand.
Regardless of the amount of times we’ve gone, the first ten minutes are brutal for me – the girl with no attention span who likes to see results, results, RESULTS!
Me: “We don’t have all day, fish!”
Clayton: “Actually we do. It’s a weekend fishing trip.”
Me: (nodding pointedly to the water) “Well, they don’t know that!”
Me (ten minutes later): “…Is a weekend still two days?”
Clayton: “Sit down and get comfortable.”
Me (dejectedly bowing down my head): “Okaay.”
Around the time of that conversation (because it happens every time), I’ll wonder why I ever thought putting a worm on a hook, whipping that hook around dangerously (Last year, I caught myself! Literally. Right in the forehead. Mad skills.), and sitting around not catching anything for sometimes hours sounded like a pleasant idea. To keep myself occupied, I sing to myself a tune that always seems to work.
Sure enough, the line will inevitably take off, adrenaline shoots through my body, and I reel in a marlin – usually a pan-sized bluegill or laughingly small baby bass. The fight is real and hard no matter how big the fish is (thank you, lack of muscles!), and the feeling is oddly comparable to finding a glorious pair of expensive heels. In both instances, I usually end up putting each back.
My faith renewed, I begin to cast again and again, usually out-fishing Clayton and feeling quite smug about it, puffing out my chest proudly until I snag my line in a tree 15 feet above my head. A rookie after all, I am forced to puppy-eyes my way into him helping a deflated girl out.
We were in South Dakota fishing last May when I caught my first 11-pound carp, and then my second. The five-minute fights to pull them in were battles that ended with such self-accomplishment and elatedness. Holding the fish in the air as my trophy, I fell a little more in love (and not just because it, too, was shiny).
When things are slow, sunflower seeds and nearby happy-go-lucky ducks with tufted haircuts in major need of maintenance are a welcome distraction. When things pick up? Well, mostly my arm starts to hurt from all the reeling.
I really should lift weights or something. It’s getting embarrassing.
I remember the first time Clayton suggested we keep some bluegill for dinner. Astonished, I replied, “We’re gonna EAT them?!”
It seemed so wrong. So…cavemen of us. I was pumped.
“Yes, but first we have to cut off their heads, gut and descale them,” he said.
It seemed so much more wrong. I teetered on the edge of uncertainty.
“Then we’ll fry ‘em,” he finished.
I was back in.
Previous thoughts of a Pizza Hut medium supreme pan pizza and a half order of breadsticks went down the drain along with the fish scales and slime I would soon be washing off every exposed part of me.
It’s true that the thrill of a big catch and the sense of accomplishment outweigh trekking through poison ivy, warding off biting flies and wading through swamp-like waters. In the last year, I’ve learned to worm my own hook, including how to “thread” a worm (Why, yes, it is as awful as it sounds), and take a fish off the line, noting along the way that their razor-sharp fins will NOT hesitate to slice me into ribbons.
I tell myself that this hobby teaches me patience, which is a virtue I was previously lacking. I tell myself that I’m being like Jesus, except he was a fisher of men and I already caught the one I want to grow old with, walking down piers in our 60s, hand-in-hand and laughing just like the old couples in those heart medicine commercials.
I tell others I can’t go to the bar with them over the weekend because we’re going on a fishing trip, you see, and we wouldn’t even dream of being back until long after dark.