Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fanatic for a day

Hook, line, and sinker

The monofilament fishing line unwinds from between his forefinger and thumb when a sharp gust of wind saps his ability to feel the thin material. The fishing knot comes undone before it was finished.

The fisherman hunkers down a bit lower in his boat, leaning over his lap to guard against the gales howling across the lake at his rickety little boat. He does not flinch but sets to tying the knot once more.

Again Mother Nature throws her vigor at the man, this time with freezing rain, sleet, and broad, wet snowflakes carried on the wind. The fisherman remains hunkered over his tackle like a fisherman should, unaffected by elements around him that would make anyone else miserable.

Finally, he finishes his knot by cinching it tightly. Affixed to the line, in a fashion taught to him by his great-grandfather, is a small treble hook on a spinner, surrounded by red and black squirrel fur and accessorized by a brass spoon the size of a fingernail. The fisherman smiles down at the tackle, satisfied with his work and confident he’s chosen the right color and action type given the season, weather conditions, and time of day. Now to try his hand…

He stands in the boat, his knee-high, green muck boots glistening with water and ice, and prepares for the first cast of a new fishing season. With one hand he slaps the bail open on the reel with three fingers while holding the line taught with his forefinger, all the while bringing the rod up over his shoulder and in one, fluid, glorious instant, snaps the rod forward with both arms, sending the tackle sailing downwind 30 yards to plop into the dark, awaiting water of his favorite fishing hole.

All the world seems to go silent. The storm around him subsides, the pressures of everyday life - work, money, debt, obligation, even time itself - all fade to nothing, and he begins to retrieve the lure in his new enlightenment.

“This is my religion,” the fisherman pronounces to himself under a wet mustache. “This is where I want to be buried, this place where I feel so alive.”

The lure comes up to the shore bereft of a fish, but that does not matter much. The fisherman is in the rhythm now, wrapped up in the comfort of his mindless repetition. He knows two things. First, he will eventually catch a fish, and second, it does not matter if he does not catch a fish.

The wind howls at the fisherman’s back, and as some time passes he has yet to see any action rise from below the surface. Eventually, he resolves to hoist the anchor and paddle the boat a bit further into the bay, both to get out of the wind and to try a new spot. Although it is a slow and laborious process, he does not mind paddling, but he does try to limit the number of times he’ll need to reposition as his chances at catching a fish lie with how often his line is in the water.

As he paddles further into the bay and sets the anchor, the fisherman speaks to himself and the trees. Whatever comes to mind passes over his lips, and he does not find a reason to censor any of it. He simply wonders aloud in an unassertive tone all of the greatest mysteries of life. It is like a confession in the greatest of cathedrals. His words are swept away on the wind, and the trees nod their comprehension with their leafless limbs.

The fisherman, now more sheltered in the bay, switches the lure out for a new one by biting through the line and tying on the new bait just the same as the first. He casts, and just as the lure drops into the water something very strong grabs it and runs. The fisherman’s instincts snap in - he sets the hook and begins to reel in. Now standing in the boat, he can see the silvery flash and the spotted back of the fish as it fights him through the treacherously cold water. His fishing rod bows under the strain; the fish fights in a kicking-like action, swimming, straining, diving down to keep away from the hull.

At this point, anxiousness arises in the fisherman as he envisions times past bringing fish up to the boat, only to see them unhook themselves at the last possible moment and swim away forever. He grabs his net, reels in a fraction more to keep tension on the line, and scoops the fish at his first opportunity.

Swiftly he brings the fish to the deck of the boat where he can unhook it safely. The fisherman knows immediately It is well over the keeper limit, and his target is caught cleanly by his top lip. Even though he intends for this fish to become dinner later that night, the fisherman handles his gilled friend with respect as he places it in the live well.

“What a beauty you are!” He pays respects to his catch, pausing only a short moment before casting out to the same spot once more. Thus, the fisherman quickly reaches his bag limit and finds it is time to row through the wind back across the lake and begin cleaning fish. For these he has a recipe already picked out and friends in mind to invite to the feast.

“Maybe after I’ve got them cleaned I can try for walleye,” he smiles, quietly gloating to himself. His confidence is soaring, satisfaction peaked, and the whole day is still at hand for the taking.

See you out there,
A woodsman in training.

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