God knows what we had to do to get them sometimes, but we tried hard nonetheless. After sleepy, rushed breakfasts on foggy, blue-moonlit mornings and dark, rain-clouded mornings and even mornings when we only hoped the rain would pass, slicing in an aluminum craft toward a far shore through insect-rippled glass or battering along atop rolling, broad chop full of weeds and cold and God knows what: we two boys and Dad, a bag of Mom’s sandwiches, three tackle boxes, four rods and a bucket of live bait, out fishing.
If the wind was high, we’d sit and hold our poles out from the sides to bob and drift through whitecaps; if it rained, we’d let our lines way out with flashing spoons in back and motor slowly through the waves. We rarely caught much on those days, but when we did, they were always of the kind that come with bragging rights and justify small lies. Someone’s pole would twitch and jerk and suddenly arc as the chosen one jerked back to set the hook. There’d be such resistance on the other end that we’d worry for several seconds if we’d snagged before the pole lurched again and line buzzed from the reel and the jealous rest of us raised the motor and readied with the net. Then our slick adversary would leap clear into midair and shake, and we’d all cheer in unison and forget about the cold and wet. We’d shout in panic when the line zagged under us and angled toward the prop, and we’d worry that the pole might snap. But on the best of days, after a spectacular fight, we’d haul a slimy lunker in to bang and slap the bottom of the boat while we danced about and took turns loudly recounting our success.
On breezy sunny days, we’d anchor in a weedy hole, weigh our bait down with lead, maybe chum with oatmeal, and wait: jigging our poles from time to time and staring attentively into their eyes, waiting patiently, carefully thumbing our lines to interpret their vibrations. Sometimes we’d spend the whole day sorting whether weeds or nibbles plagued us, changing depths and locations, praying and swapping sides like hopeful disciples: all for nothing. On good days, we’d catch enough for dinner. On the best of days, we’d pull them in as fast as bony mouths can eat, and compete for who could catch the most.
Under blue sky on a flat lake, we’d park near lily-pads or reeds to cast and crank. Purple rubber crawlers rarely failed us: splashing lightly, sinking slowly, slowly drawing coiled monofilament down, down until it abruptly stretched straight and streamed out toward cover. But I favored floater-divers for more dramatic catches. I’d plop one near a drowned stump or in a cove of pads, count to ten and tug my line and count and tug again; my lure would wobble-dive and float in turns to broadcast false distress from top to bottom. Several predators would glide from their shadows to assess the scene and then race each other to it; the surface would boil and splash, my plug would disappear, and wham! I’d drag a green-glittered beauty out through tangling yellow stems.
Sometimes we’d talk, or anchor in the middle of the lake to swim if they weren’t biting; but usually not. Time was never wasted on a whole day of rare moments spent tranquilly peering through reflections on the surface of the deep. Fishing together was our favorite pastime back then, bar none; catching was but our favorite flourish. It was wondering what God knows that made it fun, because not even Dad who knew most everything and could do most anything really knew what monsters lurked within those depths or when providence and good luck might bring them up.
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