By David Bryen
Tired of scooping salamanders from under the surface of the lake, naming them and racing them against her younger brother’s hoard, she ran up to me with a new idea: “Daddy, can I take the Aqua Pod out and go fishin? I wanna catch a fish.”
Standing up from my chair, I tossed her a faded orange life vest and helped her strap it on: “Which pole do you want to use?”
“The fly rod. Will you put your favorite fly on it?”
“Its already on.” I’d been thrashing the lake water in vain trying to persuade a fish to my dinner table with my seductive $1.49 Muddler Minnow fly, supposedly the local’s best for landing the big ones. We’d seen the silver sides of a few salmon roll not far from shore. Maybe her luck would be better than mine.
At six years old she’d already declared herself a vegetarian, routinely spitting out or gagging on dead flesh whenever we could convince her to eat “real” food, so fishing didn’t make a lot of sense. I admired my little darling for heading out alone and who was I to question the urge that pulled her.
With the pole ready my bright blond second grader shoved away from the dock in the kayak with my final bit of wisdom: “Don’t forget to spit on the fly!” a tradition taught to me by my Montana old-timer Uncle Noah, who taught me everything important about fly fishing and spitting. He would have been proud too.
Who knows how long, for her an eternity, finally her frenzied movements out in the lake caught the edge of my eye. I grabbed the binoculars and in horror watched her struggling to wield the boat back to safety. It had imposed its own will, randomly swinging from side to side as if caught in a vortex she couldn’t escape. I rushed to the dock to hear her terrified and terrifying scream: “DADDY, DADDY! COME GET THIS FISH! COME RIGHT NOW! HELP ME! I CAN’T GET TO SHORE!”
Her puffy cheeks, reddened eyes, voice hoarse from screaming for help, shirt stained by tearful drool, her little hands in vain paddling the double ended paddle while trying to corral the doubled over, throbbing fishing pole she’d jammed against her seat.
“Let the line go free and paddle to shore!” I coached. “Don’t worry about the pole.”
She made it to the dock and I lifted her sagging body then the pole out of the boat. The salmon, exhausted from towing her around the lake was easy to land. The collective fury of 10,000 powerless people possessed her young body and like a genie, grew 10 feet as she stood over that vanquished king, fists clenched and would have clubbed it to death except for her fear of this ocean-grown leviathan. Nearly as big as she was, that three foot long silver savage lashed the dock with its tail, starving for air, desperately seeking escape from this rabid seven year old girl hurling crimson diatribes its direction: “I HATE YOU FISH! I HATE FISHING! I HATE THIS LAKE! I HATE FISHERMEN!”
And I thought immediately of The Old Man and the Sea and how that fish caught him and pulled him like destiny. I didn’t have time to ponder long: “THROW IT BACK, THROW IT BAAAAACK!!!” Her words disappeared into an inaudible shriek.
“Karis, it’s a good fish and we can eat it.”
“NOOOOOO!” I never expected such vehemence, or such volume and I immediately tore the hook from its mouth, amazed at the authority fear authorizes, and with complete obedience to her ancient bone rattling demand, grabbed its writhing tail and pushed it back and forth in the water to get oxygen across its gills while she screamed:
“HURRY, DADDY, HURRY! GET IT OUTTA HERE!” eviscerating all that she’d been storing. As soon as the revived salmon tore off, she melted into my arms, convulsive sobs heaving all the way from her toes. She managed, through the broken cadence of her laborious crying: “I tried to bite the line, but I knew it was your favorite lure.”
Uncomforted by the breadth of my love she fled upstairs, threw herself into bed burying her head as far as possible under her pillow. As if she had been asked to accept too much, she clamped her shoulders to her ears in refusal, stuffed her fists in her eyes, and pounded the bed with her feet. Shaking the cabin with her sobs, she fell asleep alone trying to escape what she went fishing for and what caught her.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com
- March 2023 Issue - February 28, 2023
- March 2023 – Articles - February 28, 2023
- March 2023 - February 28, 2023