One of the many outdoor passions of my youth was fishing. I haven’t really had the opportunity to cast a reel for several years and after talking up the glamorized thrills from my exaggerated childhood memories for a day or two I was eager to get the chance.
Having never been before in her 25 years of life, I was able to talk my girlfriend, Colleen, into joining me for the trip. We do a lot of outdoor activities together and fishing seemed like a natural fit.
On the shore, hooks dangling, I snatched a dirt covered nightcrawler and approached.
Despite Colleen’s formidable constitution earned during her childhood years as the daughter of a dairy farmer, she back away with disgust and a suspicious looking grin. This is when the whole activity started to give me pause.
Though I had recalled many-a-fine fishing memories in the days leading up to the trip I neglected to remember that gruesome act of holding a squirming 6 inch worm as I forced it onto a piece of barbed metal. As I took hold of the hook I also realized I’d have to perform this gruesome act right in front of the wide eyed girlfriend.
If you’ve never done this or haven’t had the chance to see it allow me to explain. First it’s good to realize that the typical store bought nightcrawler is between 4 and 8 inches, depending on how far they decide to stretch.
First you have to tightly press the worm between your fingers. A film of fine silt and slime slips across your skin, like you just wiped a running nose with sand. As you do this the worm’s other end tends to whip wildly striking your palm and backhand hard enough to make an occasional smacking sound.
Like weaving a organic accordion you work the hook along the worm’s body until you’re satisfied it can’t slip free. Despite being impaled the length of its body most nightcrawlers will continue to fight against the penetrating steel even after they’ve been tossed into the water. Every once in a while you get a worm too big to use in just one baiting and you have to physically tear it in half, convenient if there are two people.
So I pressed a fingernail into the worm’s middle guts and yanked it apart, it elastically stretched out then snapped in half. I turned and reached out to Colleen with the other half.
I had raise the bar of expectation too high perhaps and was immediately confronted with a very resolute sounding, “Nah, that’s OK. You can do it.”
This whole experience never even gave me pause as a kid but as an adult who carefully takes spiders out of house in tissues and hates to squish even an ant on the sidewalk, I suddenly felt very cruel.
The next hurdle came later when (of course) the first fish we caught together swallowed the worm, hook line and sinker. I pulled the medium sized Yellow Perch out of the water and Colleen came over to see the next skill she’s have to harness in order to be a fisherwoman.
I open the fish’s mouth and all I could see was a line leading into the depths of his gullet. Another important thing to know about fishing is it isn’t always harmless. Although 95 percent of the time a hook will be caught near the fish’s mouth and easily removed with some patience and pliers an over eager minority seem to set the hook deep in the digestive system. At this point there are two choices, cut the line or risk removing the hook. Both have the potential to kill a fish through infection or injury. The problem is amplified the smaller the fish.
So like a bomb technician standing along side a pond I surgically reached inside with my needle nose pliers and began testing the resistance on the hook. If it had been a fuse we’d be dead. Long story short it was a heartfelt attempt but in the end I had to cut the line. I hate doing this because I’m an environmentally conscience sportsman, I like to catch, release and relax in the sun. The smaller my impact on the ecosystem the better.
The day did eventually move on and after the initial failures there was a rush of excitement as we reeled in a number of decent sized Sunfish, Chain Pickerel, and even a Brown Bullhead. Colleen actually hooked the trophy of the experience, a sizable Largemouth Bass.
Over all the trip must have been a success because we later went on a few more fishing trips. There was a beautiful four pound Largemouth Bass I pulled from Millbrook Pond. That high achievement was then followed by the low comedy of accidentally getting myself caught on a hook while it was still in the fish’s mouth. Nothing hurts like connecting your finger tip to a heavy fish with serrated metal as it flops around for dear life. Funnier yet was watching Colleen put her first worm on the hook. Using two leaves she cleverly managed to get the worm on the hook without ever actually touching it. Though it took about 25 minutes to complete the task.