Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fishing [Ryan]

I don’t get fishing.

It’s not that I’ve never done it; I have many fond memories of sitting, freezing on a boat in the middle of a lake, downing the last of the Cheez ‘n Crackers, as my dad waited for some particularly stupid fish to ignore the mistakes of his predecessors and bite the lure.

And it’s not that I hate it, either; unlike certain activities, like golf, I can see how fishing might be fun: you get to see nature, you get to spend time with the people you love — you know, stuff like that. But I can get those experiences by hiking, or by living with my family in a cabin in the woods filled with pizza and "The Office" DVDs.

Thus, it’s just that I don’t see the point of fishing. True, if tomorrow the world were reduced to a post-apocalyptic landscape and we had to forage for food, fishermen would suddenly be in high demand. But for the modern fisherman, actually eating the fish seems secondary to the apparent joy of sitting for an hour in anticipation of reeling in a fish, watching it wriggle around in the air, then tossing it back into the depths from which it came.

Am I missing something? I imagine it must be weird for the fish, as well. There they are, just going about their menial lives, when they are suddenly whisked into air, subjected to various indignities, and then thrust back home without explanation or apology. I bet that’s what an alien abduction feels like.

Then there’s the environmental factor. Fishermen will brave cold, rain, heat, and sometimes active volcanoes for the chance to dip their line into the water. I remember a time we went to Mexico. My dad, not content to enjoy the beaches or pyramids, took my brothers and me on a six-hour fishing trip in a tiny boat with a guide named Angel or Jorge or something like that. It was a chance for my brothers and me to become men, or at least reasonably adept net-holders for when Dad caught a fish.

Imagine, if your faculties can envision such a scene: there we were, sitting in the searing afternoon heat, honoring the ancient tradition of father/son/Mexican guide bonding time with an equally ancient boat. We couldn’t swim (that would scare the fish). We couldn’t talk loudly (that would also scare the fish). The fish weren’t biting. Jorge Angel stood on the prow of the boat like Columbus entering the Americas, casting his long shadow across the water, but that didn’t scare the fish. I think my dad caught a few fish, but I can’t help but wonder if we were somehow outsmarted by beings with brains the size of Skittles. (My personal theory is that there were very few fish in the first place; most of them were on vacation, checking out the ruins at Chichen Itza or Uxmal.)

I love the outdoors, but I don’t need to be knee-deep in icy water or adrift underneath a scalding sun to enjoy it. If you’re a fisherman (and all of my immediate paternal ancestors are), you go enjoy it. It’s just not for me.

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