My birthed-into family had, as our weekend house, a sailboat. When you spend that much time quite literally on the water, you fish a lot. Over the years I kept track of how many fish I caught: one.
My dad and brothers were excellent at it, usually trolling for dinner off the stern. Once my father brought in a six foot-long sand shark. Into the boat! In the cockpit! It was very exciting and quite delicious. We ate it for several days and talked about it for years.
There were times when the malefolk didn’t catch anything but for me, every single time I fished I came up empty hooked.
Except for THE ONE TIME SUSAN CAUGHT A FISH.
It was chilly that day and in the picture of THE ONE TIME SUSAN CAUGHT A FISH, I had on a winter coat. Both brothers had already hauled in a flounder or two when one handed me a pole and told me where to aim.
I recall being doubtful. History told me that when everyone else caught a fish, I would catch seaweed.
But no! A tug! I tugged back just like I had been taught but never practiced. Then, for the very first time I got to reel in something that tried to swim away.
Dad grabbed the net and Mom grabbed the camera. Soon — CLICK — on her fancy 1970s Instamatic was THE ONE TIME SUSAN CAUGHT A FISH.
I never caught another one.
I grew up to marry a man who loved to fish. On Sunday afternoons he headed to the grassy shore of a pond behind our apartment building and spent hours fishing. Catch, release; catch, release. Sometimes I would join him but most times he would holler up at me and I would head down with a fancy 1990s 35mm SLR, and I would get a shot of him with the fish. A fish that looked an awful lot like the last one he had held up while I clicked.
“Fish with me?” He would ask but as soon as my bait would plop into the brown, murky water I would remember why I had only caught one fish in an entire early lifetime of fishing.
I don’t like to fish.
It’s not baiting the hook or being outside; those are not icky and enjoyable (in that order). But standing there, doing nothing, is tedious. It’s easy to recall the number of times when I was a kid that I would drop my line and wait for mere minutes. When nothing happened I was done and my nose went back into a book.
Luke had his first pond casts with his Dad. Noah first went ocean fishing with one of my brothers — the guy who is still catching a lot of fish in our childhood waters. Both boys frequently escape to fish and take photos with fancy phone cameras.
One day Noah brought his tackle box into the kitchen and started telling me tales about each lure, what it did, what kind of fish it attracts.
“Look at this, Mom,” he held a silvery-gray fake-fish. “Caught something with big teeth on this one, you can see the bite marks.”
I squinted to look as he rattled off a detailed list of fish it could have been. When I describe my favorite fish I only use two words: fried or grilled. He used a lot more.
I still don’t like to fish. But because the activity is woven through generations of important men in my life, I have a lifetime of memories, and pictures, to show that I do love fishing.
Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, go thehistorychicks.com.