Wednesday, July 23, 2014

midnight fishing

One of the things I love about Arctic summers is that everyone has so much energy with the permanent daylight. So when you've finished eating a nice roast beef dinner and passed the evening playing board games with your friends, and it's nearing midnight and one of your friends says, "Hey, wanna go fishing now?", you say yes.  You don't say, No, it's almost midnight, and we have to work tomorrow, and we should go to bed. You say, Yes, let's go fishing.  We have all winter to sleep.

midnight "sunset" (the sun does not actually set) at the river

And then all your friends pile into someone's old truck and sing along to the oldies playing on truck's cassette tape player, pretending to do a duet with Patti Smith, waving at the folks on their ATVs as you pass them on the road out of town.  Because the night was belongs to lovers. Because the night belongs to us.

near Long Point, by the gravel pit

You decide on a fishing spot based on wild speculation, based on rumours that you heard around town.  I heard somone caught a bunch of char over in West Arm. In West Arm? Why would the fish go there, a dead end? I heard the fish like bad weather. I heard the fish like colder water, near the snow banks. How about that spot by the river where that kid almost drowned? There's a dead fish on the shore here, half fileted; this must be a good omen. You test these theories that are based on nothing but fantasies and you choose your spot and you cast your line.

You reel it in, find nothing, then you try again. And again.  Sometimes you move, having learned that your latest theory was bunk. You don't care.  You cast your line.

You develop the perfect soundtrack to listen to on your headphones while you fish. Oddly enough, I have found that songs about fishing do not necessarily make the perfect fishing music.  I like Jonsi and the xx.

West Arm

One of the problems with fishing off a shale beach is that every time your line snags on a rock (and, of course, the ocean floor is all rock), you have a brief moment of hope, false hope, that you've got something. You've got something! Everyone come here, you've got something! Oh wait, no. It's a rock.

Sometimes, it won't be a rock but a clump of mucus-y mud, or for me, my own tackle box.  I've still got to practice my aim. Being new to the hobby, I have been learning through all sorts of painful mistakes. What a broken reel looks likes, and, consequently, how expensive it is to buy new reels in Cambridge Bay. What happens if you don't keep a proper eye on your line...and how easy it is to get it tangled up like a kitten playing with yarn.  How to yank your hook free from a rock without breaking everything. How gross mucus-y mud is.

sexy bug net

But for me, it's not even about catching the fish. It's about casting the line and then reeling it back in. Over and over again. It's the same reason why I spent twenty years at the driving range before ever setting foot on a golf course. I don't care about the game or the goal. There's therapy in the repetitive action in itself.  It's an activity that allows you to be alone with your thoughts in a non-anxiety-inducing manner. It's an activity you can do with your friends, but with your friends faraway in their own fishing spots, left with their thoughts, being quiet together.  It doesn't matter to me when I don't catch a fish.

At least that's what you tell yourself. Of course, when the guy on the other side of the shore catches a fish, a real fish and not a rack or mucus-y mud, there's a little envy mixed in with that admiration. One day I'll catch my fish.  And then...I'm going to have to figure out how to filet it.

Hard to believe that it's July here, sometimes