The flash across the water was how I knew for sure that I wasn’t wrestling with underwater shrubbery. Then sure enough the pole started to bend. I watched the shimmer jump in and out of the water, throwing her body.
Maybe she was throwing her body to try to let loose the hold on her mouth or maybe someone so grand won’t go out any other way. I fought her to shore and struggled with the hook that had bit both of her lips simultaneously. I didn’t know how to use the stringer. I hadn’t caught a fish since I was so young that my Dad handled all this business end.
I cut her gill running the stringer and blood soaked the yellow plastic rope as I ran it out of her mouth. She was fighting hard to breathe, she was the biggest fish we had seen come out of this lake, set at the highest point on the prairie of southwest Wyoming.
We didn’t know till after our first trip that this lake is seeded, like corn sewn in a field, little trout are dropped here. They grow up and when they are lucky they spawn.
The blue sky that I was fishing under was being chased out by a thunderhead. I was watching the horizon for lightenings invitation to hide under a mud bank until the storm passed. As I cast my line she lay on her side in the shallow water sucking around the stringer. She would lay still for several moments, but at just the moment I would think to feel sorry for her she would leap and swim out till the line was taught.
At the end of the line she would turn and face me, this happened several times over the course of a few hours.
Her nobility would not fall prey to my self-centered pity.
Her skin had the same sparkle as the little waves of the lake. Later when cleaning her we discovered that she had already laid most of her eggs. The water held her and her the water. When she was finally retrieved and laid in the bottom of a canoe being pushed up a steep hill toward the truck, she kicked up again. She swam in mid air across the bodies of her already dead siblings and cousins.
There has not been a more beautiful fish, a more beautiful death and more perfect lesson in living.
The first of many: Bloom where you’re planted. I was also manufactured to exist for the enjoyment of others. But my nature, for better or worse, is not any more mutable than hers.
The second of many: Fighting isn’t a decision based on your odds of winning, it’s an all your worth dance for the sake of what can sprout where you fall.
I swear I want that fish tattooed across my chest.
Or maybe I just want to shut up for a minute, listen and chew and let what’s hidden be watered by her just being herself.