By Sean Pearson
What some people call fishing I find truly amazing.
I can’t remember the first time I went fishing with my dad. He wasn’t so much the fishing type. He was always much more comfortable with numbers than with live animals. And campfires. And mosquitoes. And sunshine.
The first memorable experience I had fishing with my father was on a deep-water fishing charter somewhere off the coast of Florida. I was set. No problem with holding a fish, baiting a hook, or even wrestling with slimy, bloody things. No … my nemesis that fateful day was the roiling, raging sea herself.
OK. So it was actually very sunny, and I doubt seas were much over 5 inches. Some might even call it relatively calm and glassy. My stomach disagreed. I spent most of the trip pale green and puking — much to the chagrin of my father. Not so much because he wanted to watch me land a hefty blue marlin or bond in that “Mayberry/Andy/Opie” way. My father’s disappointment came in knowing that he had not only paid for me to fish, but also for the “Jolly Tiger” kids’ pancake breakfast I was now hurling overboard. And everyone knew the breakfasts at Sambo’s were a lot pricier than those at Denny’s. (Obviously, this was back before political correctness came into play. Believe it or not, it was perfectly legit to name your restaurant after a racial stereotype.)
(An interesting tidbit of information for you here: The restaurant name was actually a partial combination of founders Sam Battistone and Newell Bohnett’s names. But try taking the time to explain that to a racially charged South in the 1970s.)
Needless to say, my father never took me fishing again. Apparently, if I couldn’t swim with the big fish by age 3, I was not angling material.
Now, normally, I would stop here to extoll the virtues of my father, and explain how he spent hours with me in the backyard, teaching me how to pitch. He could hurl a baseball so high into the air, you’d almost lose sight of it in the blue skies of summer. And by age 10, I could throw a meaner spiral than half the high school guys on the football team.
But this isn’t about football, it’s about fishing. We’ll have to wander down that poignantly touching memory lane some other time.
I didn’t go on too many fishing excursions after that. Speed boats and water skis were a lot more fun — and a lot faster. (Again, let’s just leave my experiences of learning how to slalom ski for another time. Those aren’t necessarily always happy memories, anyway.)
I tried many times to get into it: the quiet serenity of floating on a peaceful lake in the middle of nowhere; Ripples of light dancing on the water’s surface around my taut fishing line; the anticipation of that first gentle, nudging nibble. The waiting … waiting …
Ah yes. Therein lies the problem.
Turns out, I’m not a particularly patient individual. Or, as a very wise woman once said, “instant gratification takes too long.” My therapist and I are still trying to work out whether that’s an attention deficit issue, or merely a need for more adrenaline in my life. (I’m leaning toward the latter … I’m guessing you know where my therapist is going with it.)
We also haven’t ruled out general brain damage. I like to refer to it as Cranial Malfunction (Not Otherwise Specified). It allows for everything I forget, misplace or otherwise lose general track of.
Like my train of thought.
So, there I am, living in a small coastal town in Alaska with virtually no fishing experience to my name. For the sake of brevity, possible lingering legal issues and the protection of what’s left of my dignity, let’s just say I learned a lot about fishing over the years. And when I finally got the guts up to stand among other living and breathing individuals holding a fishing pole, I experienced my first silver salmon.
Now this was my kind of fishing.
I went on to reel in a good-size king or two over the years, pulled up one fairly hefty halibut, and even managed to learn how to keep fishing while puking. (Again, not so much a pretty picture — but I think it colorfully portrays how far I have progressed at angling over the years.)
So, to all my Facebook buddies out there posting photos of their “pretty little bass” from Lake Chaubunagungamaug somewhere down in the Lower 48, I have only this to say: Take that cute little 3-pound guppy and put him in a fishbowl on the mantle where he belongs. Up here in Alaska, we grow real fish. Big, mean … and decidedly ugly. (Sometimes we even gotta shoot ‘em with a shotgun, they’re so ugly.)
Homer’s Jackpot Halibut Derby starts Saturday.
Fish on, my brother.
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