|Brother Jeff, now better at casting|
When we were young children, my father would sit my brother Jeff and I at the end of the dock, wearing those bright orange life jackets that were so bulked up with thick blocks of floatation materials we couldn’t even see a fish, were one to jump. We’d sit chattering, rod in hands watching that red and white bobber float on the surface of the lake. The slightest nibble would pull it under and we’d scream for Dad who would help us reel in a beautiful wide-eyed sunfish. We would be delighted at our catch and watch Dad throw him back in the water, where we would all shout, “Get bigger and come back next year!”
Time passed and we became a larger part of the adventure. The night before a cottage trip, Dad would water the grass, as would most of our neighbours. After dark, we would creep out, armed with flashlights and trample the lawns, quickly bending and snatching hundreds of worms, which would keep the fish in chow for a good week.
Jeff was the first one to head out on his own. One late spring evening, he and two friends set off for a trout pond while Mom and Dad were away. Excited for the catch he’d bring back, I ran to the door when I heard his steps, along with an unusual rattle, rattle, rattle. There stood Jeff, empty handed, looking frustrated, pointing to his head.
Apparently, in an over-zealous casting attempt, he managed to snag himself. Stuck right into his scalp was his favourite lure, a silver Cleo, the rattle, a dinner bell that was meant to call the fish.
I worked at freeing it for a while, but let’s face it, in the days of brother-sister teenage hood, I was none too gentle. So there we were, on the bus headed for the hospital.
I still carry that "head meat" Cleo in my tackle box and keep it as a reminder of my brother’s unflinching commitment to his passion.
We became adults with young children and we still spent time at the cottage. We would set out in the evening to our sweet spot. We called it the Honey Hole and we’d drift back and forth along the weedy bank casting our lures and landing the odd nice-sized bass. We were proud fishermen and we thought of the Honey Hole as our coveted secret place. Until the night that two of the kids boated out to bring us an important message.
“How did you know where we were?” I asked.
They giggled, “Everyone knows where you are!”
As we matured, we’d spend the same evenings in the boat and talk, realizing how our shared childhood helped us form similar personalities, which melded us together in a way that no one else would understand. Sure, we’d fish, but we’d also see the beauty of nature around us in the quiet harbours as the jack-pines blew in the wind and the loon called for its mate. It was the computer age then and we’d cast into the riveting sunset, hoping to capture a photo worthy of a yearlong screensaver.
We are older now, our children grown. I am retired and Jeff is counting down. As if a ritual, we head out every cottage evening at 6:30 with a plan to return at 9:27 when the last moments of light are in the sky and a healthy bonfire, surrounded by those we love, leads us back to our dock.
Those hours are some of the most meaningful of my year. I sit in the quiet evening with my brother, my friend, and we talk about our lives … and sometimes we just sit quietly, holding our rods, lines in the water, waiting. But mostly we are being. We are present, content and calm, sharing time with someone who understands us. You can’t capture moments like this if you try. You can however, live them … simply through the evolution of fishing.
Colleen Crawford is happily retired and enjoys volunteering in her community, photography, writing, nature, family and friends. She is mother to Molly, 26.
See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops, writing retreats, and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Alton, Barrie, Bracebridge, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, St. John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Ingersoll, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.