Dreaming of Fishing
Lately I’ve been dreaming of fishing.
I don’t come from a fishing family. Neither of my parents fish, and though I grew up in a town that was locally famous for its fine fishing lake none of my friends were big on fishing either. I suppose I would have been just the same as my family as far as fishing is concerned if it wasn’t for a small event in my early life.
When I was four or five years old some friends of my parents came to visit. I have no idea who they were today, and I didn’t really know back then either. At this early stage of my life I had the kind of confidence and trust in others that some small children have. I didn’t really need to know who they were to feel comfortable around them. Anyway, I wouldn’t even remember this couple if it wasn’t for the fact that they offered to take me fishing out on the lake. I don’t know if I professed any particular desire to go fishing before this, but I was certainly game to go. They had two little kids of their own (both of whom were a little older than me) so I suppose they thought one more little guy in the boat wouldn’t be an inconvenience.
I can still remember parts of that day with remarkable clarity considering how long ago it was. I can remember sitting in the aluminum boat: I can remember how the man showed me how you take the fish you catch, put a string through their gills, and tie them to the back of the boat so they stay fresh. I was amazed that you could put fish back in the lake and they wouldn’t disappear. I know that we caught several fish, though that wasn’t what was most important. The most important thing was that I caught a fish. I believe it was a rainbow trout: at least that’s what I think they told me it was. I was so excited to have caught a fish of my very own. Looking back on it, I think it’s likely that one of the adults had a lot more to do with catching the fish than I did: but it was my rod that caught it, and that was enough for me.
We took the fish home and I watched as it was gutted and cleaned. I don’t recall being disgusted by the gutting part. Instead I remember being fascinated by the scales, and how they fell off and covered the cutting board. It seemed so strange that they could fall off so easily. I wondered what a fish had under its scales, and I didn’t get the question answered to my satisfaction. My dad cooked it up and I ate it from my high chair. It was one of the best tasting things I had ever eaten. To this day I can taste that trout. What’s funny is that I don’t particularly like fish. I’ve always wondered whether it only tasted that good because I had caught it. Perhaps all rainbow trout taste like that. I’ve never had the chance to make a comparison, as that rainbow trout remains, to this day, the only fish I’ve ever caught.
From that day on I was slightly fish mad. I wanted to go fishing again, but there was nobody around to take me. Besides, we didn’t have any fishing gear. I can recall that at one point, possibly a year later, I went back to the lake with a group of men who my parents felt they could trust. We fished from the shore, and though people to the left and right of me caught plenty I didn’t get more than a nibble. I stayed until it got dark, and then one of the men took me home. In my mind the men were giants, and I still can’t recall their faces as they seemed too high and out of reach for me to see properly. I believe they had beards. If I was to be invited to go fishing with a similar group of strangers today I’d feel very uncomfortable and probably would decline. At that age I still had no fear of people.
After that fishing trip opportunities just dried up. Occasionally I would get it in my head to go fishing and I would find a sturdy stick, find some fishing line (we had no real poles, though my mom and dad kept line around to use for household projects), and tie one end to my stick and the other end to a safety pin. I’d try to find some works, or at least a beetle to use as bait. I tried tying pebbles to the line to use as a sinker, but I never could find a way to tie a pebble to a piece of fishing line that would work properly. Then I’d find a nice sitting place next to the deep part of the old creek and try to fish. I knew there were fish in there: if you looked long and hard enough you could barely see them move. Their backs were a sandy brown that blended in perfectly with the rocks below, so sometimes you had to sit a long time. I still don’t know what kind of fish they were, but they never even glanced at my bait. I was able to catch the occasional minnow though, with a cup or a bucket. Still, minnows hardly count: they’re strictly catch and release because you’d have to be awful hungry to try and eat one. Once a nice fellow took me fishing in the beaver pond up the road. He had proper equipment and was a nice guy. We didn’t catch a thing though. After that the next real occasion where I got to fish was back on the lake with two of my closest friends. We had known each other since elementary school, but were about to head off in different directions after graduating. Fishing wasn’t really the point: it was just an excuse to hang out one last time before we said goodbye. Nobody got close to catching anything.
Finally I had a chance to go properly fishing. I visited Ketchikan early in the summer with my girlfriend. I knew that I had to take advantage of being there: what’s the point of going to Alaska if you don’t fish? So one day I tried, and tried, and tried. I know the fish were out there (as they kept stealing my bait) but I didn’t catch a one of them. Still, as I assured my girlfriend, it was fun to try.
That was the last time I went fishing. You’d think I’d have cooled on it by now, considering my lack of experience and success. Yet somehow the desire to fish is still within me. I’m living in Alaska now. When things melt out I’d like to try again. The only problem is that I don’t know how. I’ve never really properly fished without someone there to show me what to do. I don’t have any equipment of my own. I don’t know where to fish, or what’s expected of you when you get there, or what any of the fishing etiquette is when dozens of other fishermen are all around you. Most importantly, I don’t want to fail again. I don’t want to get excited and have it come to nothing one more time. I’ve been looking through the fishing guidebooks up here. Most of the pages are spent telling you the best places and times to get salmon. Pink salmon, Silver salmon, Sockeye salmon, and the biggest prize of all, King salmon. But I don’t really care about those (addmittingly magnificent) fish. I just want to find myself a lake or stream and finally catch another rainbow trout. I want to take it home, clean it, and cook it.
And I want to find out if it tastes as sweet as I remember.