He is sitting in a small white rowboat on the shores of a northern lake. The sun is falling behind trees on rocky islands and two loons float and cry nearby. He casts his line closer to the shore and waits. He is a patient man. He is the man that owns the fishing lodge that houses the men that come each year to fish. He has never read Brautigan, and he doesn’t like Hemingway. He just likes to fish.
“It’s not the fishing,” he tells me, “it’s the thinking. Fishing makes you think and a man’s got to stop and think every once in a while. You don’t have to catch anything,” he says. He says, “Catching fish isn’t the reason for fishing. It’s just being out there. When a man’s sitting in a boat on a lake, just looking around, people talk about him.”
“But if he’s got a rod in his hand?” I ask.
“He can sit on that lake as long as he pleases and everyone’ll say he’s a real sport.”
The lake is flat except where motor boats break the surface on their way to cottages. The loons bob up and down in the wakes and our floats drift too close to shore. There is a large grey rock with a white streak of quartz and beneath the rock is a large undercut. The shores around this lake have many undercuts but the fish like this one. That is what he tells me. He says this is where to be when the loons are on the lake.
“Nobody ever expects a man to get better at fishing,” he tells me. “It can take a man a real long time to catch a six inch rock bass. But you know, if he comes back talking about that fish and how great it was out there, everyone’ll say he’s a real sport. He’d have to be cause a six inch fish isn’t much reward for three hours fishing.” I smile and toss my line towards that white streak one last time.
The sun is almost gone now. We are sitting in his small white rowboat, our lines pulled taught in the water. He’s rowing us back to the lodge. We don’t expect the trolling will work but we keep our rods in the water. We row close to the two loons and they begin their long take off across the lake. He looks at me and he smiles. It’s only my first day and he knows we have a week.
Fishing was first published in Grain, Volume XVIII Number 4