Thursday, April 27, 2006

AMHERST WRITERS group met again last night.

The writing suggestion was to begin the first line with "The first time..."

Fishing Karma

The first time I caught a fish I knew it was my lucky day. We had been canoeing all day down Jack’s Fork, one of Missouri’s prettiest rivers. Four canoes, ten people, and two days of floating. I had been fishing and floating with these people many times. Most of the fisherman in these canoes were fishing for dinner, but I really only liked casting and casting again.

The best part of fly fishing, I thought, is feeling the rhythm of the line, first waving behind you, and then out in front, and then behind keeping a keen eye on the structure in the water. The structure where all the fish are hiding. When my aim or my karma was on a roll, the fly at the end of the line would sail with ease and hit the water spot on. I’d jerk the line, wait, jerk, and pull it out before the fish knew I was there. This sport is a little more difficult from a canoe. I didn’t intend to make it more difficult by actually catching a fish.

We had stopped the canoe to empty the water from the cooler. No more beer. No sense in weighing down the canoe. I took the opportunity to get in touch with my fishing karma. As the fly touched the water, something grabbed it and pulled on my line. I drew him up near the canoe and watched him swim away when I gave him a lose line. When I held him up, I could see that this fish was just big enough to not see the sun shine through him. He was cute. I had an urge to name him, but knew that would be a bad idea, if we were going to make him a part of our dinner.

“Here he is,” I told my canoe mate, Ben. “We keeping him?”
“It’s too small, throw it back.”
“He’s cute. He’s got a little rainbow coloring behind his fin,” I told him proudly.
“HE'S not worth keeping," Ben said letting his words drip with sarcasm. "He’s a bluegill, and won’t be worth cleaning.”
“Huh. Well?”
“Take him off the hook,” Ben told me, "You caught him."

I didn’t like this part of fishing. Catching fish. The needle-nose pliers were on the floor of the canoe. One side of the nose was broken. I managed, apologizing to Jerry, the whole time, “Sorry, little buddy. Your cute and I want to keep you, but you don’t really wanna stay for dinner.” He skirmed in my hand, and I made faces, trying to hang on to him without squishing his middle.

I think Jerry had more than a headache when he went back to his snug home in the structure.

Just then, Sam, the captain of another canoe, pulled alongside and handed me a small box. “It’s my fluky fly. Here, take it. It’s your lucky day.”
Ben grunted. “All she can catch are CUTE bluegill.”

“That’s why she needs this. It’s all the luck you need.” Sam said.
I opened the box. The ugliest fly I’d ever seen stared back at me. It was bigger than the fly that attraced Jerry’s attention. The last thing I wanted was a bigger fish to unhook.

“Thanks, Sam,” I said smiling and quickly snipping off my little yellow fly. I tied on fluky fly, carefully, so I wouldn’t lose it. Maybe Sam was joking, but he seemed unnaturally attached to his fishing equipment and I knew he’d want it back. There was a double hook on the end of this one, and it looked hand tied. And dangerous.

The river was still and it was getting late. I was hungry. Ben must have been hungry, or in need of more beer, because he sounded annoyed when he snapped, “You gonna row or what?”

“I’m fishing?” I said.
“FINE, then,” he said with a note of male one-up-man-ship in his voice.

I cast toward the shore, with a little more energy than I’d planned. Ben sighed. One of those “you cast like a girl” sighs. I pulled back, drew the line up, and cast again. Spot on, except for the weeds. In a moving canoe, I was just lucky I missed the low branches we were passing. The canoe jerked to the right as my pole bent toward the water. Not another fish, I thought. Fluky fly had not found a fish. It was stuck in the weeds. “I’ll never hear the end of this,” I warned myself as I tugged on the line. I tugged harder. Please, not this.

I gave it a hard pull and it came lose right away. I saw the eyes of the fly nanoseconds before it lodged itself in my cheek.

"I’ve made a bass of myself for the first time," I said out loud to know one in particular

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