The One That Didn’t Get Away

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…but boy, did I wish it had.

When I was a teenage girl I would sit on a tree stump in the shade of the riverbank on a lazy hot summer afternoon, teasing the fish with my bit of raw bacon on a makeshift hook, watching the insects flitting over the brown surface of the hot liquid that was my hometown river in July. I never caught anything and didn’t know what I would do with it if I had, but I loved the peace, the quiet, and the shade, and with my homemade fishing rod it looked to any passerby like I was actually doing something, which I wasn’t. Not at all. That was the beauty of the whole thing, kid-fishing at its finest.

All of this changed when I became an adult. I was expected to use adult-type rods and reels and grown-up bait. Instead of settling in and enjoying the quiet, I was expected to shift from less productive fishing areas to more productive ones, tramp through the woods, force my way through bushes and trip over vines and weeds. Even worse, I was expected to – catch something.

We were on a fishing trip, the first adult fishing trip I had ever gone on. We took two cars: my boyfriend’s, and our married friends’. We’d stuffed both trunks with our fishing gear, various blankets and sweaters and other comfort items, and a huge picnic lunch including an enormous bowl of chilled fried rice, a large package of ham and cheese sandwiches, and beer. Lots of beer. It was a long pier which jutted way out into the bay – no vines and bushes here! We toted our gear and our food to about halfway along, bypassing other fishermen and women dangling their lines in the water. When we found a spot we liked we spread out our food and drink and baited our hooks. Initially it was fun. All of us alternated our fishing activities with digging into the yummy chilled fried rice, sandwiches, and beer. Lots of beer. But after two hours of nobody catching anything, I was beginning to doubt the wisdom of this activity. Why not just dump the rods and continue on with the beer part of the afternoon?

Then it happened. Something struck my line. The rod jerked almost out of my hands and the tip of the rod bend almost to the water, but I hung on and battled that fish heroically. When those powerful tugs on my line grew weaker I started reeling in my catch, and I will never forget what was on the end of that line. A tiny, four-inch smallmouth bass. My friends’ howls of laughter must have scared the rest of the fish away, for the other fishermen on the pier shot us dirty looks. If only I hadn’t caught anything at all! But my little bass was mockingly dubbed the Catch of the Day, and the resulting photographs were searched out and destroyed by me when I and my boyfriend broke up a year from that date. Thus went my first, and my last, adult fishing trip, but my infamy lives on. That day I learned that the joys of grown-up fishing are nothing compared to the embarrassment of success.

About Julia French

Writer of contemporary horror fiction.
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