I Caught a Fish…This Long
My name is Christine, and boy do I have a fish tale for you. Maybe I should call it a bear tale. Let me start from the beginning. A few decades or so ago, I lived in Northern Ontario in a small settlement called Big Trout Lake. The fishing was very good up there. My husband, Bob, would go fishing every chance he had. He worked for the government, in the weather office, and I volunteered at the local school.
There were six men working shift work maintaining the office twenty-four hours a day. His job was to release a huge balloon carrying a weather instrument, which would float up to about twenty miles in the air. I’m not good with metric, so I don’t know how far that is in kilometers. It took two men to do the release and computations. This was before computers became popular–when people had to do all the work manually. Anyway, living in a small community, the workers became buddies, and would go fishing after a shift.
The government supplied an eighteen-foot freighter canoe the employees could use whenever they wanted. Bob enjoyed working the night shift, then going early morning fishing with his co-worker and coming home to fry up some fish for breakfast. The smell of frying fish would wake me up and I would enjoy a delicious breakfast with him.
I never really had the opportunity, or the urge, to go fishing with Bob. I was busy helping out at the school and left the fishing to him. It seemed to be a ‘man’s thing’. At least that is how I thought about it until one Sunday afternoon when Bob appeared especially bored. All of his buddies seemed too busy, doing this and that, and Bob wasn’t much interested in doing ‘dis and dat’. So, out of the blue he asked me to go fishing with him. I hesitated at first, but wanting to support him, I finally agreed to give it a try.
I didn’t have a clue about fishing, but I think Bob actually enjoyed showing me the basics. The most difficult part was learning how to cast the line out. He let me use one of his old spinning reels. I had to use my fingers to hold the line, and let it go just at the right second when I swung the pole. I wasn’t very good at it. Bob finally gave up on me and we did a lot of trolling. All I had to do was hold the pole as Bob slowly guided the boat back and forth along the shore of the lake. We got our lines entwined a few times, but as Bob said, “That’s expected with fishing”. I caught two fish and Bob caught one that day, but the biggest surprise of the day was that I became ‘hooked’ on fishing.
I started to go down to the dock and practice casting when Bob was at work. After a few times I got pretty good at it, and I could actually get my lure to go in the direction I wanted it to go. Bob continued to go fishing with his buddies, but sometimes we would roam the big lake, fishing by ourselves. Experiencing the peace and quiet of the open water, and just hanging out as husband and wife was wonderful.
You know, I have discovered why men, I should say ‘people’, enjoy fishing. It isn’t solely to provide meat on the table, or for the thrill of the catch. It is a time to be alone with yourself, to experience the calm and tranquility of nature. It really is a time of meditation. I think it is a conundrum for men. They don’t accept all of that airy-fairy stuff about intuition, and spirit, and meditation, but they can experience that same reality and call it ‘fishing’.
Okay, I can read your mind. I’ll get to the ‘bear tale’ soon. Taking my time, like this, builds up a little suspense, don’t you think? Anyway, I was going to say, Bob and I have grown closer since I’ve started fishing with him. During quiet moments out on the lake he often opened up and talked about his inner feelings. One day, out of the blue, he asked me what I really thought about God. Except for being in a church at our wedding, we had never attended church again. So I thought it strange that he would bring that topic up. I told him I never thought about God much anymore, especially after my nefarious childhood experience. My parents became ‘Born Again Christians’ when I was a teenager, and their blind faith in religion appeared to me like gluttony. Their heads became fat with dogma, which they tried to feed me. I don’t know what got into my dad, (I think it was the devil) but he would go around acting like a preacher, empathizing that palatal sound every time he shouted, ‘YES’, in the way preachers do. I rebelled and left home, but Bob already knew that. However, I never got around to telling him how much I hated religion after that experience.
What surprised me during that fishing trip was the thoughtful way Bob told me about his new thinking about God. He told me he was sure we all have free will. And if that were true, then there can’t be a god who controls things. His conclusion from that reasoning was there was no controlling god. Then he continued with what I thought was an inspiring thought. He said he felt that beyond our physical life, we are all spiritual people and that collectively we are God. Cool eh! That reasoning surely made sense to me. But, I’m getting way off topic; back to fishing.
During the winter of that year, Bob took me ice fishing. Maybe it was the freezing cold, but I just didn’t enjoy it. The tranquility wasn’t there for me, so I let Bob do that kind of fishing with his friends. When spring approached we became close friends with our neighbors, Ken and Gloria. I discovered Gloria enjoyed fishing with her husband, so we planned a big fishing trip together. I mean ‘big’ because we were going to charter a plane and fly to an isolated lake about a hundred miles away.
Ken worked at the weather office as well, and he would fish with Bob after working the night shifts. I enjoyed being with Gloria and Ken. He had a strange sense of humor and would laugh a lot. He constantly played little pranks on Bob, and as we got to know them better, he would play them on me as well. There was this one time when Ken and Gloria invited us for a fish dinner. After enjoying a drink we sat down at the table. Ken served us two bowls of water with goldfish swimming in them. He laughed and laughed, and them asked us how we would like our steaks cooked.
It was in the middle of June when we all found time to charter our plane for the trip. We arrived at the lake around noon in our floatplane, with the canoe strapped to the pontoons. We unloaded and set up our tents near the mouth of a river, feeding the lake. The weather was beautiful: warm and sunny. The pilot was to return in three days to take us home.
After having a tasty lunch, the boys took the canoe out to discover where the fish were hiding. Gloria and I wandered up the river and practiced our casting. We caught bottom a few times, but we also ended up each catching a small lake trout. We arrived back at the tent about the same time as the boys pulled in. They weren’t as lucky. Ken had caught a northern pike, but kept it in case they didn’t catch anything else for supper. Bob cleaned the three fish and we enjoyed a lovely campfire dinner. We spent the evening sipping on a beer and watching the sunset.
We woke-up early the next morning and decided that all four of us would fish the narrow river from the shore. Since Gloria and I prepared breakfast, the boys volunteered to do the dishes and clean up. They suggested that we should grab our poles and head up river. They would follow us after their chores. Their generosity seemed out of character for them but we took advantage of their offer and left. We tried a few spots without any luck so we wandered on further, around a bend of the river. There seemed to be a deep hole there with swirling water. The first cast I made I caught a five pound trout and put it on my stringer. Gloria soon caught a grayling and we kept that one as well. We fished for an hour or so and caught three more fish. I started to wonder why the boys hadn’t caught up to us yet. I rationalized that they had found a lucky spot they didn’t want to leave.
I lazily cast my line out, and as soon as it hit the water I could see a huge fish jump up and grab my lure. It then darted off almost pulling me in the river. My line whizzed out exceeding the reel’s tension. I saw the fish jump again and my line went slack. My adrenaline reached the ecstatic level when I realized I had almost caught such a huge fish. Disappointed I reeled in my line, but casted it out again in the same spot. Bang! There it was again. The fish jumped out of the water, higher this time, and I could swear it was the same one that got away. This time it seemed to pull harder. I ran along the shore with the fish pulling me down river. My fishing line kept feeding out until I noticed that I was almost out of line. By this time I was approaching the bend in the river and the fish was heading down around the corner. All of a sudden the fish stopped pulling. I thought I might have lost him but I kept reeling the line in. I felt tension on the line again as I raced around the corner.
As I looked up, not a hundred feet in front of me was a bear. I screamed and threw my pole in the air, instantly retreating up the river again. Gloria was running towards me trying to figure out what was going on. I grabbed her, screaming, “bear”, and kept running, dragging Gloria with me. She stopped me and I sat down to catch my breath. Looking down toward the bend again I saw the bear rounding the corner, but he was walking on his hind legs. In a few seconds I recognized Bob following behind with a fishnet overflowing with a big fish. It didn’t make sense until I heard Ken’s laughter coming from the bear.
Initially I felt a flush of anger rising up in me, but before the boys reached us it subsided and I welcomed them with a big smile. As the boys started to tell their story it made sense why they volunteered to clean up after breakfast. Ken, being his devilish self, had packed a bear costume with the sole purpose of scaring us.
Apparently they were walking up carefully to approach us without being seen, when all of a sudden I ran around the corner, scaring Ken as I screamed and disappeared back around the corner. My fishing pole caught on a tree branch forcing the fish to come close to shore in its exhaustion. Bob, noticing the fish, jumped into the river with his net and scooped him up.
So, that’s my story. It’s true. The lake trout measured thirty-seven inches long and weighted thirty-two pounds. Ken pulled off his prank, but not exactly as he planned. He confessed later that he had to change his underwear when we got back to camp.