Small Fish and Big Waves

I cast my first fishing line about twelve years ago. Since I was a grown-up woman, there was no one to cheer me on when I hooked my first, almost microscopic fish, and no one thought I was ever so cute when trying so hard but catching nothing.

I hooked everything in sight when I learned to fish in the streams and creeks in the forests of Vancouver Island, Canada. I remember sneaking along the clear water so that the fish wouldn’t hear me, but also making enough noise so the bears would hear me. I was very scared to hook a bear by accident. Imagine a big black bear (they are always big when you meet them face to face) with the business end of your fishing line in his hide, or claiming your small catch for his snack! Luckily, the bears had enough sense to stay off my path.

Life had me trade the clear Canadian creeks for the red-dirt waters in Oklahoma. I have a vivid recollection of one fishing hole whose water was so muddy that we had to pull the stringer in every few minutes and check if the snapping turtles hadn’t eaten our catch. Snakes in the high grass around the pond and hungry turtles in the water, that’s enough to distract a novice fisherman. I slid on the slippery edge of the pond and plopped gracelessly into the murky water. The mud was as slick as soap and I needed help to get back out. I can tell you, the red dirt from Oklahoma is as good as dye: it never washed out of my clothes.

On a trip to Mexico, I tried surf fishing. Armed with a very big rod, one stands in the surf up to the knees. It was a lot of fun, even though I never caught anything but seaweed. While surf fishing in the Pacific, you need to keep an eye on the waves. I’ve learned the law of the seventh wave the hard way. You need to count the incoming waves. It isn’t always evident, especially when they roll back after braking, or when hungry seagulls try to catch your baited hook. You count one to six. That’s as long as you are safe. On the sixth wave, you take a hasty retreat. Because the seventh wave is much bigger; sometimes it is several feet higher than regular. You don’t want that kind of wave braking over you.

I was told that the rule of seven applies to all the Pacific waves. I’ve spent a lot of time counting and had sometimes the feeling that it wasn’t true. But as soon as this kind of thought popped up—sure enough—there it was: big and mighty, the seventh wave. I must have miscounted before…