Monday, October 10, 2011

Hook, Line and Sinker

A friend, who used to fish at dawn, had once given me a vivid description of what happens at daybreak for anglers. Sitting at the edge of the water, the first thing you see, is the early morning fog. Clearing away from your feet, that you can barely see. And then, you might just be able to make out the line. The hook stays buried in the mist. And just like you cannot spot the fish near the hook, the fish cannot spot the line, and you. It is an amazing game of patience, that makes poker look like child's play. And, as the dawn breaks, you sit there hoping, that the fish bites. Because if it does, the rest of your day --  is made.

I was recently in Kerala. In the paradise of coconut palms, next to the emerald backwaters. And strangely, as I was falling for the charms of the beautiful state, I fell for something that I never thought I would. The hotel we were staying at, offered "complimentary" fishing, and I took the bait. In the past, whenever I have "fished", I have gone fishing with someone, who knew way more about it than I did. And usually, all of these people were armed with equipment, that was probably taken from captain Ahab's storeroom, except that we would merely fish for trout.  But this time, it was different. The hotel guy handed me a long bamboo pole, that had a nylon cord attached at the sagging end, with a measly looking hook tied to it. And then, he handed me a coffee cup, full of little pieces of cut up chicken, to be used as bait. Finally, he walked me to the edge of the boat jetty, told me that the water was deep enough to drown me, wished me luck -- and, walked away.

And, there I was. With my limited knowledge of fishing, and the most primitive equipment one can rig up, trying to fish.  The failure to fish -- could be blamed on many many things. But we all need to take refuge in  the higher moral ground, above petty excuses, don't we? So, it did help that I remembered a couple of things that I believe in. I strongly believe that if you go hunting or fishing, you should not do it for sport. And, that you must eat what you hunt or catch, since you would be gravely insulting mother nature, if you didn't. I also remembered, that I really don't enjoy eating fish that much, but the doctor has told me time and again, that if I am not a vegetarian, I should eat fish more than any other kind of meat. So, as I saw the chicken pieces stuck to the hook, slowly sinking to the muddy bottom, I hoped for the best. That -- I wouldn't catch, what I couldn't  eat.  

Fishing, without the intent to catch a fish, is the best way to while away your time. Newspapers, or television, don't even come a distant nine hundred and ninety ninth. It does help that you get to breathe the clean air and listen to the sounds of nature. And, when you wake up from your daydream,  you find that tens of pesky little fish, small enough to escape the hook, have nibbled away at your bait from the side. And then, it is time to reload the hook -- and wait.

While my hook was in the water, I kept looking at the tall coconut palms, with gigantic bunches of young green coconut on them. And, I kept hoping that someone would crack one open for me. And then, get some sweet rum, and pour it inside the coconut. Well, I needed just one more thing -- hand me a nice long straw, and then, disappear quietly. Please. Since you wouldn't want to scare the fish away, and I was there for the fishing, wasn't I?

Ernest Hemingway, one of my favorite writers of all times, was a big fan of fishing. And once, he had famously remarked, "Somebody just back of you while you are fishing is as bad as someone looking over your shoulder while you write a letter to your girl." While I was fishing, a whole bunch of people waved and smiled at me -- hotel visitors, helpful staff and wannabe anglers. And when I tried to pick a distant spot and hide from all the unwanted attention, a security guard stopped by. To make sure that I was secure enough, and a large fish hadn't yet pulled me into the water. Since the water, as someone had told me before, was quite deep. Deep enough, to drown me. 

I spent a few hours fishing. For fish, that I didn't catch. But, I had a really good time. It would have been better with some coconut and rum, but even without it, I had fun. And then, like an expert angler, I wound the nylon cord around the bamboo pole, making diagonal stripes from the top to the bottom. With an extra twist for the hook at the base. It was time to go. 

As I was walking back to my room, I was wondering which one of the old fishing maxims I could use on my wife. Not that she was going to make fun of me for returning empty-handed. But, it always helps if you can take out some pearls of wisdom from the oysters you didn't net. And shower them, to make up for the lack of fish.

I walked by a hotel employee, who asked me with a lot of enthusiasm, if I had any luck. I had no fish in my hand, and a dejected bamboo pole with its head hung in shame. It wasn't really necessary to tell him that I hadn't. He smiled, and in his passable English, gave me the fishing quote that I was looking for -- No fish today, no problem! Catch fish tomorrow, no problem!

That afternoon, I didn't hook a perch, a catfish or a red snapper, when I could have. But, I did manage to hook some great fishing wisdom. That fishing, is all about hope, optimism and the desire to come back, the very next day.

For tomorrow, a fish might bite -- and if you get lucky -- it might bite real big. As in hook, line and sinker.


  1. I am glad that you actually did not catch any fish :-) Better to enjoy just the calmness and serenity without disturbing fish!

  2. Fishing is indeed a game of patience, hope and luck. Glad that you learned a few things whilst fishing and shared them with us through this post. Good luck next time :-)

  3. Dear Aativas: Even if I did, I probably would have released it right back..

    Dear Aakash: Thanks for visiting...