Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hook, Line and Little Stinker

It’s summer which means taking trips to cottage country. It's called cottage country because you could be in an entirely different country in the amount of time it takes to drive the 100 kilometers (or 4,000 teaspoons for your American readers).

One of my eldest daughter’s highlights of any visit to my in-law’s cottage is fishing off the dock with her grandfather. My father-in-law never fails to buy worms and have a Spongebob fishing rod on the dock when she arrives.

Why does "Plankton Plug" sound do dirty to me?

Like most Canadian kids who grew up in a more rural setting I too was into fishing. I remember at the age of five having a fishing rod with a comically oversized plastic hook on the end. Oh the number of broken lamps I caught in our living room.

Leroy Brown: The one that got away

By the age of nine I had a tackle kit filled with lures, bobbers and other shiny things that stupid fish might eat.

For fish that like to eat turds

For honest fish that returns money clips, even when they are empty.

For fish celebrating Pride

I have fond memories of standing by the roadside with my father, both of us in spring jackets and ball-caps with company slogans on it. We are a family who couldn’t give a shit about sports so I don’t think either of us ever wore a cap with a sports team on it. We both owned Canada’s Wonderland hats though. No family vacation was complete without a hat to show everyone we had been there.

"I have not, nor will touch these fish with my hands until they are breaded."

Anyway, we would stand by the road with our lines in the water, surrounded by other dads and their kids in their spring jackets with their lines in the water. It was perfect for us antisocial folks who could tell any other person to shut up because “you will scare the fish away”. Fact: fish don’t have ears. Hence why they don’t wear regular eyeglasses, and only prince nez glasses.

Make out! Make out!

We would stand there for an hour, my father baiting my hook and removing fish I caught, before heading home where he would then clean them, which is a polite way of saying eviscerating them in order to devour them.

Why the sad face Mr. Fish?

We had a family friend who was the very picture of the outdoors man. He spent his time fishing and hunting. There wasn’t an animal he wouldn’t kill in cold blood. He started taking my father and I out fishing at the butt crack of dawn. We would stay out until the sagittal trail of sunset.

Once this family friend took my whole family for a “boat ride”. This entailed dropping my mother and I off on a small island to pick blueberries while he and my dad when fishing. We had no water or food, only the blueberries on the island. They came back about six hours later. Honestly I can’t pretend to be certain that it was six hours as one hour adult time is equal to three weeks child time. The only thing missing from the day was a hungry bear chasing me in circles on that tiny island for the entire six hours while Yakety Sax played in a loop.

From that time on I always brought a book with me and in one outing would manage to read almost an entire novelization of a movie that I was not old enough or brave enough to watch.

This book helped me seem cool in junior high.
This book did not.
Because of this I have always left my daughter’s fishing adventures in the very capable hands of my father-in-law. However, last week during a week long visit to the cottage he was absent. After stalling for three days by offering to colour My Little Pony pictures my daughter became impatient and said, “I want to go fishing. I don’t even like My Little Pony. Where did all these colouring books come from anyway?” So I had to take over.

The first step is baiting the hook. I am a person who in science class pretended to be Mormon to avoid dissecting frogs and worms. It just goes to show how smart the teachers in my high-school were that I succeeded in my ruse.

"So what do you have against cutting up animals and boxer briefs?"

I started by grabbing a whole worm and shoving it onto the hook. It was at that point I wished it worked like cartoons from the 30’s and the worm just hung onto the hook rather than having to impale it.

It’s a harrowing experience letting a child have a steel barbed hook. They want to cast the line in themselves, but these are people who can’t even eat ice-cream without spilling it everywhere. The hook is flying through the air narrowly avoiding eyes and testicles before finally landing in the water.  Because of the precarious way I put the worm on the hook it fell right off (or jumped, the coward) and I had to reload my daughter’s hook.

I quickly realized that 1) this would be no fun for her to watch me squint my eyes and pretend to not be bothered by holding this snotty greasy animal for a good ten minutes each time, and 2) the fishing trip would be over in a matter of minutes if I kept using full worms, which would work for me, but the difference in time would be filled by a long droning chant of “I’m bored”.

Wanting to try and keep my daughter interested in fishing, I decided to start cutting worms into smaller pieces and putting them on the hooks. In my wife’s family there is a tale oft told about one of his kids fishing and asking my father-in-law if the fish got hurt when it got hooked. He off handedly answered that they did not as they had no nerves, and was faced with suspicion and disbelief, only years later to be vindicated by a friend of the family who reported back to him that a biology teacher confirmed his story.

Recently my daughter asked him the same question about worms and she got the same answer from him. I thought back to this story as I used an ancient rusty knife in his tackle box to cut the worms in half. I tried hard to pretend to be cutting cinnamon rolls to be baked, as my safe place is in the kitchen making delicious baked goods. However a cinnamon roll doesn’t ooze guts or start barrel rolling when you cut into them.

Like worms, tastes best fresh from the oven

As I watched this chunk of worm spin, It reminded me of my daughter when I try to put her to bed when she’s overtired, just rolling and rolling in the bed.

When it comes to fishing with the kids the fish caught are placed in a bucket of water and kept until the end of the fishing event and then tossed back in the water. It’s sort of a catch, terrorize and release system.

To a fish this is the equivalent to waterboarding

I of course have to remove the fish from the hook for this to happen. Being a tremendous pussy I found a pair of work gloves so I would not have to actually touch the disgusting fish. If you take anything away from this post let it be that fishing = slimy.

Of course one idiot fish decided to swallow the damned hook. Stupid idiot! That meant I had to get the hook out that was now embedded in the fishes genitals (I think, again I’m Mormon so I skipped that lesson). I considered cutting the losses and leaving the hook in the idiot fish, but that would have meant quickly learning how to tie a new hook on the line, and I had had enough new experiences for one day I tell you. I yanked and yanked and heard tearing inside the fish. My daughter saw the gills and yelled “Blood!” and ran away. If only a 38 year old man could get away with the same tactic I would be free. After what felt like a feature length version of an all fish version of Saw I got the hook out and threw the fish back in the water, It floated for a second and then swam away I assume to reenact an all fish version of Born on The Fourth of July. I on the other hand told my daughter it was lunch time so we should quit for the day. The day she learns to tell time and knows it’s only nine o’clock in the morning I’m dead.

"This fish almost made my Daddy throw up!"