Going Aloft, Chapter 11

For all you fisherpeople out there, this chapter’s for you.

Saltwater fishing has always captivated my imagination more than freshwater. Maybe it’s the spectacular colors of the fish, maybe it’s the possibility of catching a real whale-scaled monster, but I’ve always gotten bored in lakes and streams. When I moved to the coast seven years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to surf-fishing (casting off the beach into the waves with giant eleven-foot rods and heavy pyramid-shaped sinkers to hold the bait steady in the rushing longshore current), and I fell in love. Since then, I’ve gotten only marginally better at fishing, and refined my technique to the point where, when I cast, I feel confident that I’ll actually go home with something that’s worth keeping and not have to stop by the grocery store for dinner that night. But still, I’m by no means a master angler. (At best, I’m only a master baiter).

I only keep what I know I’ll eat that day. Part of the draw of fishing for me is the primalness of the action, the primitive act of catching meat which humans have been doing for thousands of years. I feel connected to my ancestors when I fish. I feel like a provider. I feel like, if I were to be cast out into a watery wilderness with only a stick and a string and a hook, maybe I’d be able to survive long enough to grow a sweet beard.

This chapter of Going Aloft tries to capture the feeling of catching The Big Fish. The rush of excitement, the thrill of landing a flapping beautiful animal that’s nearly as large as you. The pathos of watching such an incredible creature die, the grim acceptance that it’s body won’t go to waste because it will live on in you, giving power to your own flesh. The joy of seeing that first flash of color. I’ve caught other dorado since this one, but this fish will always be my first. This chapter continues the eternal mortal struggle between man and fish, and is an homage to the elegant simplicity of the fish-prose of Papa Hemingway. It’s a glimpse at a life-form so removed from our own that it may as well be from an alien planet. And it is dedicated to all the beautiful fish out there who were never eulogized, never thanked, never appreciated as anything more than meat.

Read it here.

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