Like he had told me the day before, my father woke me at four. He had given me a fishing rod for my tenth birthday and till this day I never used it. It certainly was his own hobby. Once in a while he would disappear a full day with his fishing gear; sometimes my older sister would go along.
But this day would be different: we would have a real men’s day and do men’s things.
He whispered to me I should be very quiet; no need to wake everybody. When I came downstairs he already had made a peanut butter sandwich for me, served with a glass of milk. Obviously he had been downstairs a bit longer. His plate was empty and in the kitchen sink. The moped stood packed next to the window. I could see our fishing rods sticking out from the back. He was busy pouring coffee in a thermos flask and hummed a song.
It was a long ride to the big channel and he had to shout a few times I should hold him tighter. We didn’t want to lose me of course. At these times my hands would seek a better grip and would get the smell of his leather jacket even more in my nose.
Slowly I saw the sky getting lighter and when we got to our goal, the day was there. I got off from the moped and must have walked in a funny way. He smiled when I tried to get my legs going in a normal manner. My behind felt like it was made of wood, but slowly I got a tickling feeling and things became back to normal again.
He held a piece of barbed wire up so I could crawl into the meadow that bordered the water. I picked up my share of the things we were dragging along and we went straight to the water. There was one pile of cow poop and of course I stepped in it. He laughed out loud, announced that this would make a nice story at home. I was not amused and tried to scrape the stinking stuff from my rubber boot. He went on and returned to get the rest of the gear from me, it took me quite some time. Things went better when I found a stone. I scraped the rest off and joined him.
My father put two folding chairs on the bank and had the other gear arranged in a nice manner. This way we could get to almost everything, even without getting to our feet. He poured us a coffee in plastic mugs and we warmed our hands with these. Halfway the coffee he announced that we would get into action.
First he took his fishing-rod from its cover, planted it in the ground and opened a small tin with little holes in the lid. It was full of maggots, wriggling white worms trying to escape. He picked one out and speared it on the hook. He took the rod in his hands and threw the line into the water.
The rod was planted in the ground again.
It was my turn, so he did the same thing with my fishing-rod. While busy with the maggot he said that I should learn this too; there was a little trick to it, because if the insect was not attached in a good manner it would slip off in the water. And if this happened you would never catch anything.
Robert McAffee - Fishing with Dad
We sat for some time staring at the floats and said nothing. Father asked me if I liked it here as much as he did. “Mwah”, I said and looked a bit better around. I wondered how a painter would paint the colour of the water on canvas. I thought he needed brown, green, grey and black. The sky was just grey with some darker grey clouds that drifted along the horizon but slowly were getting near. At the other side of the water I could see a church tower very far away. A dog was barking on a cargo boat that passed by. A man talked to that dog and waved at us. It was the third boat that passed since we sat down.
Once a bigger boat passed and made big waves. We had to step backwards to avoid getting wet.
Later a miracle happened, my float went up on and down. Father was even more excited than me. “You got one!” Following his instructions I gave it a big fight and got it in. Father scooped the fish out of the water in the landing-net. He fished it out and showed it to me. It was a few inches big, maybe five. Shaking his head he fiddled the hook out of the lip and nose of the fish. He saw me looking in disgust, exclaimed that the fish would be fine and threw it in the water. I saw it disappear slowly, laying sideways in the water. Father explained that this was because the fish was shocked, he would come to his senses soon again. Lucky for me he did the new bait for me on the hook again.
A man with a fishing-rod walked up to us and asked if they were biting a bit. Father shook his head, told the man I was the only one that got something till now. He nodded in approval to me and rolled a cigarette. He asked father about the bait we were using and nodded again. Father showed his different hooks and the man put one thumb up and spat in the water. He walked away and got seated almost out of our sight.
“Nice day, right?”, father said to me. “Fourteen”, I said and he looked at me in astonishment. I looked at the sky; the darker coloured clouds were winning from the lighter ones.
It had started to rain and father gave me a poncho to stay dry. “It will stop soon, according to the weather forecast.” But it didn’t. Once he told me we would wait ten more minutes for the rain to stop. “Nineteen”, I answered. “Oh, we’ll see.”
It was raining harder now and he had enough. We both got the lines out of the water. My bait was gone. “No wonder you didn’t catch anything”, he said. He took his bait off and put the rods in the covers. We collected everything and were off. I looked at the water one more time. Twenty-one.
This time I manoeuvred around the pile. Father was quite handy with building the gear on the moped again. I stepped up behind him while he was telling a story about other fishermen. They would buy fish and take it home. We were honest folk so we wouldn’t do that. This I fully understood.
It wasn’t very long before the rain stopped and the sun came out. A bit bleak, but this really was sunshine. “What a shame you wanted to go.”, he said. I didn’t react.
At home my mother asked how things had been. Father told about the fish I caught and explained that the fish wouldn’t bite because of the threatening rain. I found my book and read on while he took care of the stuff we had taken along. “Of course you should help him”, mother said to me.
So I ran up to him and offered my help. “No need; you don’t know where I keep the stuff.”
It was the last time he asked me to go along; months later I noticed that my fishing rod had disappeared. I never asked where it had gone.