Lucy Jensen

I have learned recently that fishing does not have all that much to do with catching fish. I’m sure it does in the big leagues and the commercial fisheries of the world; but in your average household that owns a couple of poles, it’s more like a Sunday drive or a walk in the park. It’s mind candy; a soothing of the soul, titillation of the senses. I had not known that before.

My grandpa Harold was a serious fisherman. He had a whole cupboard full of poles, I do recall. He would ocean fish in the North Sea when he’d come and visit. He’d also indulge in serious fishing holidays to Scotland to catch salmon. I seem to remember he had enormous waders so he could negotiate the Scottish rivers. My granny would sit peaceably on the bank and watch; and enjoy many a good fish meal, I’m sure.

When my daughter was being extricated from the wreckage of their vehicle a few short weeks ago, her pitiful voice could apparently be heard crying about the fact her fishing pole had broken. Never mind her back and most of their possessions; it was her fishing pole she was weeping over. This resonated with my dad who wanted to fix a little piece of that awful situation where he could. He sent over a gift card for her favorite fishing shop so she could replace her pole.

Truthfully, the shop boasts a lot more than just fishing supplies; but it had become her new go-to emporium once she, interestingly, caught the passion of fishing from her boyfriend Aaron and then it became hers.

We did wonder how long it would take her before she got sick of being at home, safe in the cocoon of her kittens and her family. The first several days she didn’t want to go anywhere that involved a vehicle. Then the “lure” of the fishing shop gift card was dangled under her nose, and she couldn’t help herself; she had to get in a car and be driven on a freeway and up to San Jose where the shop could be found. (I had suggested online shopping and got “the look”!)

She and her boyfriend spent several hours in that place — up and down the aisles they went several times — and both managed to secure nice replacement poles to start moving forward from that terrible incident in their lives. She returned home absolutely beaming with delight, renewed color in her face and a sparkle in her eyes. She was now the proud owner of an ocean AND a river pole, also some new special lures.

When she was miserable and sick with pain, I had promised her I would go fishing with them once she felt better. This promise was cashed in immediately with the purchase of the new poles. We were all going to go “fishing.” My husband has always enjoyed dipping his rod, as it were, and our destination was one of his former hunting grounds when he was a youngster with a pole and not a care in the world.

We were all packed up with bait and chairs and new rods. The only thing we forgot was our memory that Moss Landing has a very different climate to Soledad; so, jackets and blankets were a little lacking in the luggage. No matter, the fishing folk got their acts together, which involves quite a lot of tying, baiting and fidgeting with rods in different places I noted, before any lines were actually cast into the water.

I sat behind them with my book and my camera ready. More chit-chat, replacing of bait (the Moss Landing fish are wiley boogers; they deliberately strip the bait off the hook and carry on, it seems), some moving of chairs, rearranging, untangling rods. I could see that fishing was a lot more than stick-pole-in-water-and-catch-something-for-dinner, as one might imagine; there was a lot of social engagement that went on amongst the fishing people near the slip-slap of the brackish water and against the backdrop of herons, cormorants, pelicans and all measure of sweeping seabird.

Contrary to my prior opinion, fishing was quite fun and a real pleasure for the senses. I love to be by the water, fishing or not.

I was appreciative of the porta-loo that had been thoughtfully positioned in the parking lot, as I was the relative shelter of the truck when the fog rolled in, as it is wont to do in that part of the world. I also shed a quiet tear or two at the sight of my back-braced kid climbing up rocks and showing us that she was still a little beaten up, but coming back with a vengeance and, ultimately, she would be fine.

There was a lot of excitement when the senior angler hooked a large fish. The adrenaline rush was apparent, cheering, whooping, photo-taking … and then the blessed thing was put back in the water. Wait, aren’t you supposed to keep and cook the fish you catch? Isn’t that the whole point of fishing? They looked at me as if I was nuts. (They hadn’t even brought a cooler along to store said fish they might catch!)

Only the “pole-less” among us apparently don’t have a clue about fishing. “Mum, you can’t just keep one fish!” (Even though it was a rather yummy looking skate that I have enjoyed in the past on the east coast of England.) No, I obviously didn’t get it.

The next plan is to tailgate BBQ at that same place with rods in the water and skirt steak on the barby. Assuming that you are not going to catch any fish, when you go fishing, is apparently the proper outlook.

For my part, I enjoyed my first fishing trip much more than I thought I would. I was beautifully distracted by all the sea life, not to mention a few random kayakers and fledgling paddleboarders that I hoped might fall off their boards for audience value. (They didn’t.)

I think I shall go fishing again. When I need to just sit and be still with my lot, be happy with my hand and grateful for my blessings, I shall pack up my book and my blankets (also hats) and I shall sit in my comfy chair and enjoy the view. Who knew that there was so much more to fishing than actually catching fish!

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Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].


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