FISHING FOR A STORY…
By Margie Arons-Barron
They’re crammed into the glass jar, some gray or pinkish or maybe brown. Some are inert, and others squirm. All are slimy. I force myself to reach into the jar and pull one out, holding it in my ten-year-old hand while, with the other, I force one end onto the hook, into the anus. Or maybe it was the mouth. I could never tell which. I make sure the worm’s body covers the hook so the fish won’t know its dinner comes at a price.
I let the line out into Long Lake, dragging my “worm hand” in the water to wash off the slime. I shiver with disgust, looking to my father for approval. He knows everything about what the bass is thinking. This inlet is rocky; he’ll hide in the vegetation. A storm is coming; he’s more likely to bite. Think like a bass, he tells me, and I nod as if I understand.
Sometimes the bass are not biting. As the sun comes up, it’s pike that we entice. We take them to our cabin to grill for breakfast. Those shared times predate catch-and-release.
My father would face the bow, where I sat, his back to the motor, hand on the tiller. Occasionally, our Johnson/Evinrude outboard would die, and I’d row the boat, stopping in one place or other depending on what my father believed the fish were thinking that day.
“Uh, Dad,” I said on one occasion. “The motor is on fire.”
Swiveling on his seat, fearing conflagration, he loosened the clamps and dumped the engine into the lake. “No point in going farther,” he shrugged, so I picked up the oars. Blisters on my hands were a badge of our bonding.
Cynics dismiss bass fishing as a hobby, not a sport. Bass fishing is hardly about reeling in a fifty-pound tuna. It was my father’s sport, though, and I was grateful to share it with him.
Still, father-daughter bonding would go only so far. Dad and his best fishing buddy were flying into Brown Paper Company property in northern Maine to fish for several days. I longed to be included. My hurt was extreme when he returned, sunburned and bearded, and revealed that the friend’s son, three years younger than I, had gone along.
Years later, when he lost his leg to diabetes, he couldn’t handle the instability of a small boat and settled for deep-sea excursions on charters. The fishing was never the same for either of us. Yet, on what would have been his hundredth birthday, my husband, sister, and I went deep-sea fishing out of Gloucester. Post-hurricane, there were fifteen-foot swells. Hearty men hung over the gunwhales, projectile vomiting. Protected by pride and Bonine, I stayed the course and fished for six hours.
I owed it to my father. My reward was fresh haddock for dinner—and a connection reaching well beyond the line cast over the water for some unsuspecting halibut with a big mouth.
After a long career in broadcast journalism, Margie has turned to writing memoir and fiction at BOLLI. She has been a member of the Writers’ Guild and serves on the Journal committee. She is also an avid and successful blogger. You can read and subscribe to her blog at: https://marjoriearonsbarron.com/