I never thought that I would like fishing. In fact, as with many things our minds convince us of, I went through the better part of my life certain that I was very happy having nothing to do with piscine pursuits. I didn’t particularly like eating fish and I felt no need to try to catch one. And then I fell in love with a man who loves fishing.
My partner’s love for fishing is closely related to his love for eating fish. He’s not a catch-and-release kind of guy, and he’s not picky about size or the kind of fish he catches. He enjoys it because he likes providing for himself and for his family. What caught me off guard and touched me deeply was his pure and unadulterated joy when he caught one, which was then followed by his satisfaction in cooking it and sharing it with me. It was beautifully simple. Fishing made him happy.
In an attempt to save some time and get home a little faster on our fishing trips, I decided I’d clean whatever he caught. What I always imagined to be a complicated and slightly disgusting process was actually very simple and surprisingly satisfying, especially when, later at home, we’d pull our catch out from the plastic bag and it was clean and ready to cook. The first few times we went fishing together I’d let him cook and I’d generously let him have the bigger part, mostly because I was still convinced that I didn’t like fish. I quickly realized the flaw in my plan: I was wrong and fish are delicious.
The one time I decided to see if I had any of that legendary beginner’s luck, inevitably the lure went flying directly into a bush on the other side of the creek and managed to wrap around the branches in a way that was definitely neither lucky nor legendary. A few strong tugs and a growing sense of frustration later, I finally got the lure unhooked, the line unravelled, and I quietly stowed away the rod, along with any hopes I had of ever feeling that joy I’d seen on my partner’s face. As a perfectionist since childhood, I didn’t want to keep doing something I was clearly not perfect at.
The rest of that summer was filled with grayling, pike, trout and even some salmon, all prepared in different delicious ways, and my role gradually expanded from just cleaning the fish to also occasionally cooking them. By the time fall came around, I was a believer (in the merits of fishing, as well as my not being destined to catch one).
This spring, as the snow melted and the creeks and lakes started to rise, I found myself in a troublesome dilemma. My partner was away for work for the next few months, and I was longing for fresh fish. I had no choice but to give it another try. The first few outings resulted in very little success, but I got a lot of practice in casting and untangling my lure from tree branches. My inner perfectionist took a deep breath and kept trying. As the summer progressed, my luck began to turn a corner.
Now when I walk towards my favourite fishing spot, I can smell the earthy scent of mud, grass and just a hint of fish … and it fills me with a sense of peace and happiness. A kingfisher sometimes flies away from its perch on a nearby dead tree, and the last time I went, I saw a couple of river otters swim past, looking at me with curiosity before diving below the surface again and disappearing around the next bend in the creek. Some days I can catch something with the first throw, sometimes I go home with nothing and occasionally patience pays off and I get lucky after an hour. Whatever the case, I feel thankful for being able to be there.
Fishing, for me, is about the pleasure of providing for myself and for the people I love. It teaches me patience, self sufficiency and gratitude. I’m happiest fishing along a creek or under a bridge; I more often than not use the same trusty lure and what I catch always tastes better if I get to share it with someone else. My experiences with fishing have made me wonder how many other things I’ve missed out on simply because of my preconceived notions, and it has made me strive to not make that same mistake again.
Just like a year ago, I was convinced that I couldn’t catch a fish. I was also unsure about how I was willing to cook and eat fish. One of the newest, surprising discoveries for me has been how much I like fish stock. So now when I catch a fish or two, I keep the heads and the tails, put them in a bag and freeze them. A few weeks or months down the road, on a preferably grey and rainy day, I throw a few in a large pot, with some vegetables and herbs, and I’m rewarded with something nourishing and flavourful, along with a gentle reminder that we should all let ourselves be surprised and proven wrong every once in a while.
- Fish heads and tails
- Cilantro or parsley
- Place all of the ingredients in a large pot and cover everything with water
- Bring to a boil and let simmer for an hour
- Strain and enjoy