It was too late by the time I realized I hadn’t asked the most crucial question: “What do I do if I actually catch something?”

My husband and I had agreed to go camping and fishing with some friends, and I was really excited about finally learning how to catch and prepare my own meal. Having spent years in the army—during which time I had travelled the world, jumped out of airplanes, and fired many types of weapons—it was a source of embarrassment that by the age of 53 I had never actually gone fishing

So I posted a “Gone Fishing” status update on my Facebook page, packed up the camper for a two day adventure and headed south with my man and dreams of landing the big one. 

Day One was all about learning how to string the rod, place the bait and cast. After opening the bale without having my finger on the line a couple times, I was able to practice the art of patience required to untangle and re-reel the explosions of silky filament. Although I felt a surge of hopeful excitement while reeling in a small branch (it sure felt like something fighting at the end of my line!), none of us caught more than clumps of moss that day. 

Nevertheless, we basked in the sun and were happy to be away from the responsibilities of home, and I felt a Zen-like satisfaction in watching the line arch away from me before hearing the satisfying “plunk” of the lure as it disappeared in the river. 

I woke on Day Two, elated, from a dream of catching a huge fish. In my dream there were four enormous tunas, all different colors, lined up sardine-style in a swimming pool. I cast my line into the pool and instantly pulled dinner for fifty out of the water. It was simple! And what a way to start my second day of fishing—with a prophetic vision! 

The morning was considerably colder than the previous day and the clouds were ominous, but I knew what I had to do. Our new location looked much more promising; there were about seven others already downstream from the spot we selected and at least one line had action. I selected my spot to the far right of the group because with only one day of casting under my belt, I was not yet feeling like a pro. My location choice also had me standing on a steeply angled embankment, but it felt nice to dig my heels into the spongy sand. 

Within five minutes of launching my first fat worm into the river, I let out a loud “OOOOOH!”—much louder than I should have, because now I had the attention of every fisherperson down river from me. This was no branch. I started reeling in my catch with vociferous encouragement from hubby, who told me to reel it in faster. How I wish I had had the presence of mind to send him up the hill for a camera, because the sight which ensued could very well have launched my career as a comedic actor. 

I marveled at the beauty of my rainbow trout as it neared shore; it was the size of a

It was THIS big!
It was THIS big!

football, and my dream of feeding the masses was about to come true. “Hurry up! Get it out of the water!” my husband directed. He was as excited as I was about my first catch. In a scene that would have inspired Hemingway, I pulled my treasure from the river…and then wasn’t quite sure what to do next. 

All eyes on me now, I responded to shouts of “Bring it up here!” by swiveling to my left away from the water with my fish swinging like a tetherball at the end of the line, and then I promptly slipped on the sand in my attempt to run up the slope. My three pounds of prime fish-fry smacked into the sandy hill, the impact releasing it from the hook and freeing it to roll back down the hill and into the water to safety. 

But he wasn’t going to get away that easily. Dropping my rod, I dove on top of the flopping fish, determined to catch it and carry it up to my now anxious husband and friends. In my frenzy to win this battle (remember the slippery slope upon which I once stood?), I ended up rolling ass-over-teakettle into the cold river, all the while wrestling with my wily rival. Up to the armpits of my fleece jacket in the cold current, arms flailing wildly as my slippery supper sought his escape, I did everything I could to re-capture my catch…but to no avail; “Charlie” was in his element now, and his enthusiasm to live another day thwarted my best efforts to wrangle him back to shore. 

I crawled from the water, empty-handed and giddy with the exertion of my unconventional fishing technique, and was the first one to start laughing. Soon, all of the stunned spectators were giggling, and it took quite a while before they returned to their own pursuits. I insisted on staying and continuing to try my luck at another catch, shivering uncontrollably for about another hour before we all returned to our campground to fry up our friend’s smaller catch. 

Some of my friends squealed, “Oh! That poor fish!” when they heard my tale…but I know the truth. When my little Houdini got back to his school, his story of the 130-pound Great White that he had let escape that day made him King of the Sea, if only for a moment. Thanks, little guy, for the thrill, but watch your tail…I now know what to do should our paths cross again!

By author

Laurel lives and laughs and publishes and podcasts in Colorado's Rocky Mountains! She has published several multi-genre books and hosts the podcast "Alligator Preserves," where she interviews fascinating people, talks about the human condition, and shares scary stories from her "Dark Ebb" collection.

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