Monday, May 17, 2010

The Gifted Fisherman


It’s a Sunday afternoon at home. Rain clouds roll in from the east. No sign of lightning yet. It’s a perfect day for fishing. This is a competitive sport in our family, primarily a battle between Father and Daughter. They catch, they release and they count. The victor claims bragging rights.

You might think it’s not a fair fight. After all, Father grew up on a farm where he fished every weekend and dug earthworms for bait. Daughter is only twelve and buys her bait at the store. Father is patient. Daughter’s hook is out of the water more than it is in the water. Father considers the tide and shadows thrown by the seagrass. Daughter likes to sneak shrimp out of the bait bucket and release them when Father isn’t looking. Daughter’s first fishing pole was a Tweety-Bird pole. The three foot long rod was bright yellow. The line was little more than dental floss. But even then, Daughter always won.

They each take their seat on the dock. Father on the left. Daughter on the right. We watched Jaws recently, so no one is allowed to dangle feet over the edge. Father casts far into the canal. A red and white bobber marks his line. Daughter drops her hook straight down and pokes at the seagrass covering the water’s surface with the tip of her pole. Father slowly reels in his line, rolling the handle with his index finger. He keeps his line taut, the tip of his rod low. We have many sheepshead in our canal. They are particularly difficult to catch. The line has to be just so, the rod in perfect position. Before Daughter’s bait has settled in the water, she pulls in her line with three or four quick cranks. She is troubled to find seagrass dangling from her hook, covering up her bait. She shakes it off, drops her hook in again, and reels it up just as quickly. She drops and reels. Drops and reels. The tip of her Zebco dips. She yanks and pulls in a four inch porgy. Yes, even a four-incher counts.

After removing the silver fish from the hook, her bait still in tact, she lowers it back in the water. “That’s one,” she says. Father continues his slow and steady strategy. After a few minutes, Daughter sets aside her pole, leaving it unattended on the dock, in favor of counting how many shrimp are still alive in the bait bucket. “Oooop,” she says, when her pole jerks. She grabs it, gives the reel a few cranks and up comes another fish. A pig fish this time. Another four-incher. Still counts. “That’s two.”

And so it goes that afternoon and every afternoon for about the last seven years. Daughter walks away the victor. She follows no rules, except to always sunscreen and wear shoes on the dock. We had a hook in the heel incident. Or perhaps she knows rules that we don’t. Does she know that the fish prefer the shade under the dock when the tide is neither coming nor going? Does she yank the heads off her bait because she knows the small fish in our canal won’t be drawn to bait that is too large? Does she use the barnacles that grow on the dock’s pilings as chum? Or perhaps, she has a knack. She’s a natural. It’s a God given talent. Perhaps we should have her tested and charted. Perhaps we should take her to a better dock and buy her a better pole with heavier line. Perhaps she is a gifted fisherman who should be in a gifted fisherman class. Or perhaps, it’s none of these things. Perhaps she is a twelve year fisherman with younger reflexes and a little bit of luck.

Congratulations Chargers baseball on their Regional title - the first since 1989. And good luck as they advance to the State championship next week.

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