In my husband's youth his daddy took him fishing at a stocked trout stream, where they caught their limit in a quick 30 minutes. The instant gratification instilled a love of fishing, and of fishing stories, that he passes on to our progeny on random weekend afternoons.
"Did I ever tell you," he begins, "about the time I pulled the lips off a fish?": One afternoon I fished a bream pond with a cane pole but the fish didn't see fit to bite. So, I leaned back on the grass to rest my eyes awhile, lightly grasping the pole with my left hand.
I awakened to the sound of buzzards circling over head. Something tugged on my line and I sat up in time to see my bobber dip beneath the surface. Adrenaline coursed through me as I yanked hard on the cane pole, so hard that my hook snapped out of the water. And there on the end of it I had a tiny pair of fish lips still puckered around a much relieved cricket.
"Do you know about the night I wrestled a bottom feeder?" he says, launching into another story: I chanced to fish on a dark night in June, when the full moon glistened on the water. Time wore on without much luck, causing me to lazily recline on the dock.
Zing, my line ripped out at lightening speed and my rod bumped across the wooden planks, with me one step behind, until it splashed into the water. I went in after it, diving under and feeling around in the gloom for what was mine. I'd be darned if I would let that fish have it without a fight. After what seemed like eons my hand brushed against the reel. I surfaced and swam it to shore, with that thief on the other end churning up the mud.
Determined to snag a lunker, I reeled with all my might. But as I reared back to drag that bandit to shore, the line popped. That's the big one that got away.
The beautiful thing about my groom is that, despite his own fishing follies, he lets the kids claim all the glory when it comes to hooking a whopper. Patiently, he baits hooks, gives casting lessons, removes errant hooks from clothing, bushes, branches, and car tires, and patrols the shoreline ready to help novice fishermen land a trophy.
This brings me to kicking fish. On a particular Sunday afternoon in April he found himself at the catfish hole with four fishermen and no net. No matter, at first.
Then "Daddy, daddy, daddy!" broke the predictable springtime breeze. Again he heard it, "DADDY!," with more urgency. He scanned the pond edge to see our second oldest, pole bowed over, getting pulled step by step toward the water . . . and panicking. My lightweight angler thought something had him, instead of the other way around.
Did my beloved grab the pole from his trainee and reel in the creature himself? No. He helped his apprentice find a secure foothold in the dirt and coached him through the battle. At last, the monster neared the shore, its huge whiskered head with greasy black eyes looking defiantly at my son, ready to sever the line and swim deep into the murky pond.
That's the exact moment my husband bounded into the water and kicked that 13-lb. catfish to the beach. Yes, a net would have worked just as well for capturing the fish, but not for the narrative.
Happy Father's Day to fish kickers everywhere.