So about this fishing thing…at the time, I was dating my boyfriend for a couple of months when he would leave me for long weekends to venture to this Hayworth place in the Northern Woods. I later came to find out that it was actually called Hayward but I’ll discuss that utopia a little later on in the story. After enough whining and complaining about these weekends with the boys, my boyfriend finally agreed to arrange a trip with his brother and his wife to take me up to the Promised Land. Although I remember many important details of my first trip, such as my first steps onto their dock as I watched a Bald Eagle fly overhead or the smell of the fresh crisp air, the most wonderful and memorable feeling came when they took me fishing for my first time.
Now I had been fishing as a child with my cousins but I don’t consider that what I dream about today. I had a simple pole with corn on the hook, where I would fish for blue gill at my cousins’ pond. This was completely different. My boyfriend started me out with a Bionic spinning reel (that I still refuse to give up for a baitcaster) and taught me the basics of casting and what it would feel like when a fish hit. He taught me how to tie on my beautiful pink, hand-painted swim jig, which has since become my go-to bait. I took a couple casts as my boyfriend’s brother trolled around the lake in his bass boat that probably cost more than a luxury car when it happened. I was reeling in my JC Hokey swim jig with a chartreuse twister tail when all of the sudden, it felt like my bait hit a wall. My boyfriend, who had been keeping an eye on me from the get go saw my line go taut and screamed, “Set the hook!” So I braced myself and yanked the pole back as hard as I could. I realized later that I had been resting the bottom of the pole on my hip and when I set the hook, jammed the pole into my side leaving a bruise. Simple battle wounds for my first fish. I began to reel harder and faster and I saw it…my first fish. I can only imagine that this is what it feels like when the doctor brings the baby to the mother shortly after birth. I was in love. I was not in love with the 14” Largemouth Bass that I caught, although she was beautiful, but I was in love with the sport. My boyfriend took the hook out and gave her to me to lip for a quick picture. I held her gently and told her that she would soon be returning to the water. I also apologized for hooking her so hard. These details have to do with the fact that I am a female and have a sensitive and mothering nature.
This happened one year ago in Hayward. Ahhh, Hayward. I can’t write about Hayward or describe it for those of you who haven’t been there because I wouldn’t do it justice. Those of you who have been, know exactly what I’m talking about and I’m sure a warm feeling has arisen within you when you heard or read the word. All I will say is that, since being to Hayward my life has changed and I am a different girl. That seven hour drive from Chicago is more than worth it and if I could, I’d live there.
Back to fishing…my reason for writing this short story is to attempt to describe the feeling that the sport of fishing has brought about within me. No joy or excitement can compare to that of hitting a spot under a dock that you didn’t think you could hit or the most important rush of all…hooking a fish. The following description may not be understood by both sexes but I tried to appeal to my lady friends who think I’m crazy. Hooking a fish is better than watching your die-hard favorite team win the Superbowl, it’s better than 10 cent wings from the bar down the street and it’s much better than fitting into those new sexy jeans or buying your first Louis Vuitton, which I didn’t think could be topped. It may not be better than one or two things that I think both sexes can appreciate, hopefully you all know what I’m talking about, but its close.
As I said before, my life has changed. I save up money to go to Dick’s or Bass Pro to buy new baits. When I buy them, I spend hours re-arranging my pink tackle box (hours that I used to spend arranging my makeup). I spend my days at work dreaming about Hayward or ways that I can make fishing my career. I’ve covered the walls in my office with pictures of me holding fish that I’ve caught. Every time we drive over a body of water, I drool over the possibilities of bass that could be hooked by my scum frog or plastic worm. The last wedding my boyfriend and I attended, we heard that the hotel we were staying at had a pond so we packed our poles, woke up early the following morning and fished the private pond, while everyone else sipped Mimosas and complained about their hangovers. While my friends save their vacation days for trips to Cabo and days at the pool, I plan my next drive up to Hayward. While my girlfriends wear Juicy and Armani shirts, I sport my $10 Bass Pro hoodie. The girls talk about what color eyeshadow or lipstick should be worn with what shirt as I wonder which color Senko will do best in the copper-colored waters of Hayward…watermelon should work. Last month, instead of laying out by the pool on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I fished my first Pro/Am tournament. After telling my grandma how long we’d be on the water that day, her main concern was where I was going to pee. My Christmas list two years ago consisted of Dolce and Gabana perfume, Coach sunglasses and a Fendi bag when this year, all I’m asking for is my own Shimano Spinning Reel with a Bionic Rod, medium to medium heavy weight. Love to throw that scum frog.
I have experienced joy that I will do my best to express in words and with this joy has come sadness that still brings tears to my eyes. Again, the female side. No smile has ever come across my face as big as the one that did when that Smallmouth Bass came off her bed and hit my bait harder than I could have ever imagined or the excitement and joy that rushes through my body when the fish hit the scum frog before it even hits the water. Remember boys and girls, patience is key, wait one second after the fish hits and then set the hook. Although it has mostly been good times for me, every fisherman or fisherwoman, in this case, knows sorrow. I remember the tear that crept up on me when I lost the 20” Smallmouth because I didn’t let her fight long enough before attempting to haul her into the boat. I remember the tears that rolled off my face as I looked over my boyfriend’s shoulder when he was trying to work out a hook that I set that ended up in the fish’s gills, dripping blood all over his hands and in the water. The sickness comes over me every time I lose a bait in a fish’s mouth, not because of the loss of the bright new, shiny bait, but because inside, I worry about the fish’s survival. Most men will be shaking their heads after reading these last few sentences, but it’s the truth.
Thank you boyfriend. You’ve taught me how to tie on a bait, pitch some wood, reel down to the tip of my rod when I’m stuck on a pad, take the fish off the hook, net the fish for my tournament partner, and most importantly, enjoy the offerings in life that I would have never been able to experience without you.
And thank you fishing. You have changed me in ways that I couldn’t ever imagine. You have made me a better person and have shown me more happiness in life than I could have ever asked for.