Fishing was a constant in our lives as a family. There was always a little boat, a lot of rods and a less-than-stellar fishing shack to call home. Our first foray into a remote fishing camp took us deep into cattle country and, upon arrival at the top of the world, three of us and the dog tumbled out of the tiny Hyundai while one of us refused to move. My daughter, the dog, my husband and myself unloaded the car, made the beds, built a fire in the wood stove and put a pot of coffee on the boil. My son refused to budge, insisting that we had a perfectly good shed at home that he could sleep in if he was so inclined. We knew it was only a matter of time before nature would call and he’d have to venture beyond his car cocoon. In the end, it didn’t take even that long.
The dog, Nicky, a cocker lab cross without a lick of common sense between her ears, buried her head in the cow pies that littered the path between the car and the shack. Unable to bear the sight of his dog covered in cow cack, he finally broke down and made the 20-meter dash for the door. He pushed it open expecting, well, a shack. Instead he discovered for the first time that home was pretty much anywhere that we all gathered and that you can bake a mean banana muffin in a wood stove.
Unlike her reluctant brother, my daughter was the ultimate fisherwoman. Up at dawn with her dad and the dog in the boat while my son and I slept on, she’d catch fish when the seasoned veterans were skunked. She understood them, she said. She knew how they thought. And we accepted it as the truth.
One magical fishing week, years later and a hill or two away from that first lake, she and her dad rode out the wind on Walloper Lake one frigid fall morning. It’s a good lake, with a lot of good-sized trout in it but history had it that there was an epic trout in that lake that had beat the odds and many a fisherman for too many years.
Dad, do fish ever jump in a boat? He continued to row as he considered his answer. I dunno, he said. I guess they could but I’ve never seen it myself. Right then, right that very second, the one that beat the odds and always got away, jumped into the boat and landed at her feet. They stared at each other and at it as it slipped and flipped between them and said nothing. He picked it up, she splashed it with water and they leaned over the side to release it together. No one will ever believe this, she said.
As the dreaded one-year anniversary of her death approached this past summer, we decided to go fishing. She had given our son’s daughter a fishing rod for her first birthday and the four of us headed into those same hills to take it for a spin. Now three, she amazed us all with her ability to bob along in a rowboat for hours on end. That little apple doesn’t fall far from my daughter’s tree, that’s for sure. At dusk, on the 29th of August, I said a prayer, shed a few tears and tossed one of my daughter’s cherished Hawaiian shells into the lake and as I did, a beautiful trout leapt high across the bow of the boat in a perfect arc. My husband and I stared at each other and said nothing. He hauled on the oar to turn us to shore and pulled us against the wind. No one will ever believe this, I said.
© Kim Reynolds 2012