• O Lord our God, other masters besides You have ruled us; But through You alone we confess Your name. [Isa 26:13 NASB]. Your face, LORD, do I seek. [Psa 27:8 ESV].

Old Story: The Fish That Got Away

Here is a fun story I wrote shortly after we had moved to Idaho. This happened the summer of 2000. I hope you enjoy.

My life was passing before my eyes. As I was holding the rod, I could see through the calm water a large fish ready to grab the bait. I had just earlier picked it up only because it was lying on the dock, unattended, with the hook in the water. I could picture some denizen of the deep grabbing the hook and dragging the whole apparatus to the bottom of the sea. However, I never suspected that a fish would come if I picked up the rod.

Richard was busy setting tackle for the newly-seasoned Jon D, when I handed the rod off to him. He hollered at me to set the hook and reel him in. But I forced the gear into his hand as I calmly explained that Ryan had not yet returned with my license. “Besides,” I continued, “it wouldn’t be right. The rod and reel are yours.”

Just minutes before, Jon D had just brought in his first fish. Must have been all of five ounces and just about six inches long. But it was his first fish and he was going to have it mounted. He made a big deal of it, you’d have thought the fish was at least two feet long and had weighed some kind of record. He assured us, emphatically and repeatedly, that he was going to have the fish stuffed and mounted for his recroom wall, as he scratched a note-to-self on his electronic pocket memo book. This was an important event, almost as important as the passage to manhood itself.

My mind was immediately drawn to a scene in the movie, What About Bob?. Bob had a fear of water. Actually, he had a fear of everything. He was invited to sail and he reluctantly agreed. I love the scene, because he was strapped to the mast and very excitedly proclaiming to the world, “I’m sailing! I’m sailing! Ahoy! I’m sailing!” After they arrived on the shore and he was released and he announced, at the top of his voice, to all on the dock and his friends on the shore that he had sailed. Now my friend, Jon D, was announcing to the world and all fishdom that he fished and has prevailed. Ahoy!

The day of the big catch, we were camping out of state. The families in our church decided to get away for a few days of fellowship and Bible study together. It took a lot of convincing to get Jon D to join us because the closest he wanted to get to sand was the silicone in his computer. The outdoors wasn’t much fun for him as he was quick to explain matter-of-factly, “There are bugs out there.” The only bugs he could relate to were the ones he could decode. Nonetheless, he did agree to come and when he does things, it is never half-way. He was prepared: He had his two-day fishing pass. I did not. Ryan had gone to town to get passes for those of us without.

Meanwhile, Jon D, the reluctant camper and newly-seasoned fisherman was forty-three years old and had caught his first fish. Moreover, he had accomplished this in six minutes and twenty-three seconds and just under two hundred dollars invested in gear. Which means this fish cost over six hundred dollars per pound, or about thirty-one dollars and fifty cents per minute, if you depreciate the equipment within this singular event. But he was ecstatic. Did I tell you that he was going to have the fish stuffed? Yes, I did, and he made a big deal about being forty-three and catching his first fish. He made it sound like some kind of record. But, I guess to have that much anticipation finally fulfilled merits some degree of excitement, or in this case, hysterics.

Now the whole dock was electric. The miracle of one man catching his first fish at forty three years of age was too awesome to go unnoticed. There was renewed hope for all mankind to accomplish the impossible. At least for us on the dock, there was hope of catching more fish if Jon D hadn’t scared them all off.

It was right about that time that the big bass was coming for the bait and I handed the rod off to Richard. Now, Richard was a well-seasoned fisherman. He had a rod for everything and packed his gear in stacking toolboxes on rollers. You know, the type you see in a mechanics garage. I remember watching him use a ten-foot rod to cast halfway across the bay looking for trout. He is quite the sportsman and he relishes in doing everything in the extreme.

Watching him operate takes me back to my childhood days at grandma’s house. I remember fondly watching my grandma bake bread while she told me stories of Paul Bunyan and other heroes. The story I remember most is the one where Paul, with the help of his blue ox, Babe, dug out the Puget Sound and made Mount Rainier with all the dirt. It always amazed me and I always believed her. Now that I am older, I picture Richard working with a blue ox somewhere.

No one could be more suited to bring this fish home than Richard, and he was up to the task. He waited for the fish to strike then quickly set the hook. Almost immediately, he had that fish up out of the water. It was a beautiful bass. He had to be all of ten pounds with a mouth five inches across. He looked extremely ornery, almost as if he was looking to bite someone’s hand off. Quickly, Richard was reaching for the gill and I thought he had it. But the fish suddenly disappeared and all Richard had in his hand was a bent number six.

Having seen the size of this fish unleashed a fishing frenzy. Twenty more people suddenly appeared on the crowded dock and lines were being cast over every square inch of the river’s edge. The conversation was focused on Jon D’s conquest and the size of Richard’s bass that got away. That bass grew and grew until I could recognize it no more. I suppose Jon’s fish, too, would have grown had it not been lying on the dock as a reminder.

A parting comment: I told you my life was flashing before my eyes as I watched that bass approach the bait. Well, there is a good reason for that. You see, as I was handing the rod to Richard, I didn’t fully state the truth. The real reason I did not want to catch that fish is because I am forty-six and have never caught a fish in my life. Not that I would be scared to, and I am certain I could do quite well. But I fish, I don’t catch and I wouldn’t want to break my record.

This is the truth. It is not that I have never fished. I have fished for years. I buy a new rod every three or four years and am constantly picking up new tackle. When I was young, I would hang out at the fishing pier on Puget Sound, in Edmonds; I lived eight blocks away. My line hung over the rail, but I never caught a fish. I also taught my son to fish but never taught him to catch. We would fish on the Skykomish river bank for hours on end; throw our lines in and sit and chat, but never catch. We have some exciting stories to tell about our fishing days. Like the time we were fishing the river when the sewage treatment plant backed up. And the time I bought a seven foot boat with a two-and-one-half horse motor and thought we would troll the raging river. But those might be another book or another chapter somewhere.

By the way, my son was on the dock that weekend and he caught five fish. He broke tradition. Maybe he should write a book about it. Maybe, sometime, I’ll breakdown and catch a fish.

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