Thursday, August 07, 2008

There she blows! A hump like a snow-hill! It is Moby Dick!

On Tuesday morning, I took Eli 7.0 fishing.

Our usual setup is that Eli fishes with bait, and I fish with a top water lure. In theory, Eli stays busy with sunfish, and I’ll occasionally hook something bigger with the lure that he can then reel in.

I stress that this is “in theory,” because the little hula popper I use hasn’t had a hit since I took it out of the package about a year ago. It actually maintains correspondence with a tiny orphan boy in the third world out of sheer loneliness.

We were casting into the water at 6:45 a.m., so we were there only a few minutes after dawn. It’s the perfect time to catch fish, right at daybreak, but for some reason, the fish weren’t there.

It was baffling. This little lake is a very consistent producer, or has been in the past, but Eli’s cork wasn’t even going under. After an hour, Eli had caught one tiny sunfish about four inches long, and otherwise, we’d been skunked.

We agreed to fish for about another fifteen minutes, then high-tail it to the other side of the lake and this totally supreme playscape that Eli loves to play on.

“Dad, I lost my bait,” Eli said, reeling in and seeing an empty hook.”Okay, buddy,” I said. “Here, you take my rod,” I said, handing it to him, “and I’ll rebait your hook. You don’t even have to reel in—just let that lure sit there.” I walked over to the bait cup, which was about thirty feet away, and when I was halfway there—

“HEY!” Eli shouted. I looked back and the rod was seriously bending. I looked out on the water and the lure was nowhere to be seen. Incredibly, the only bass in the entire freaking lake had wandered by, watched the motionless lure for about a minute, then attacked it like a freight train.

Eli dropped the rod tip, reeled against the drag, and did everything totally wrong (just like I did when I was seven), but this bass had hooked himself so completely that Eli could have thrown the rod into the lake and the fish would have still been on there.

It took a couple of minutes, but Eli landed his first real fish—a 1.5 pound bass. It was at least three times as large as anything he’d caught before, so he was properly wowed. Then, after about ten seconds, he addressed his number one priority. “Dad, we need to hurry and get him back in the water,” he said. “I want to make sure he’s okay.”

Fishing, for Eli, is a friendly, cooperative venture between man and fish, with no one harmed on either side. I wasn’t like that as a kid, but I’m glad he is, so I carefully removed the hook, got splattered with muddy water by the bass, and released him back into the lake, Herman Melville be damned.

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