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FISHING IN FUTILITY

I remember my grandfather Arty(short for arthur) used to be almost obsessed with fishing, and my Uncle Joe even had a boat(he was fairly upper middle class, being a corrupt politician, even had a bar in his basement, to show off and grease palms accordingly), and they would often go out on Lake Erie fishing. I was very young, and the memories are cloudy, but they happened.

At 12 years old, I mentioned to Christian(my foster dad, closer to a big brother though) my grandfather having a true love of fishing and he decided that we would go to the “foot of ferry” one time, and try my hand at fishing with him. “Foot of ferry” was a waterfront park, lots of fishermen hung out there, and hung their lines in the water as well.

I never fished before, so I thought it might be fun. Christian had a fishing pole of his own. I think he also borrowed a friend’s pole, so I could try my hand on my own as well, with his guidance of course. Since they didn’t own a vehicle (two could not fit on his 10 speed I imagine) we walked to the river, since it was all on the west side of Buffalo.

First we stopped at a small bait shop on Niagara st, and since i’ve never been in anything remotely like a bait shop, it seemed fascinating. The whole place smelled like old fish, but other scents as well. I sniffed dirt, insects, and some smells I couldn’t quite pin down. The shop was small, dimly lit, but seemed perfect for its purpose. They had lively loud crickets, grasshoppers, tiny fish, worms, and some other things I couldn’t even identify. All in all, endlessly fascinating to a young boy. I remember being enthralled by all the various life all around me. Like being inside a nature channel.

Christian paid a very low price I remember, for a batch of simple worms, nothing else. Kind of disgusting to look at, wiggling worms, but gourmet cuisine for fish I suppose.

We walked the rest of the way down Niagara st, lots of closed businesses, and the few open were water based, tackle shops, boat sales, a tour place, but mainly just closed shops.

Even back then, the City of Buffalo was in a long term decline, probably since long before I ever existed. It’s amazing how many places across America are in their death throes, and they don’t even realize it, either economically or socially, take your pick. Many great civilizations have fallen throughout history, some quickly, some slowly, America is more on the slow side, but dying nonetheless, maybe it’s for the best.

Eventually we reached W Ferry st, and ventured under the bridge to the waterfront side. This bridge actually lifts and separates, to let larger and higher boats through, and there’s always a high pitched warning beforehand. I certainly wouldn’t want to be walking across this bridge when it lifts to high heaven, not a fun ride I imagine, even if you somehow survive the trip. We walked across with our poles and bait, and made our way across the narrow stick of land to a halfway empty stone wall with an ancient metal black railing where old and grizzled hopeful fellow fishermen stood, or maybe ex-captains? I was never sure.

Some of them barely ever moved, they just stood there, and would have looked perfectly natural on an old wooden fishing boat since they all wore the same captains caps, and all seemed over 70 years old.

They might have been ancient statues manning their poles, nothing else. Of course, I was perfectly intrigued. The whole area had a rotten fishy smell, and the water below us was dark, deep, and brown, not overly inviting. I was glad I wasn’t there for a casual swim!

We found a spot mainly away from the others, pretty empty, which I was told by Christian was better, less competition for a limited amount of fish. He readied his pole, then guided me, with basic instruction on how to stab the worm, and cast it out.

Of course, being a very clumsy boy, somehow, the first worm fell from my hand as I was attempting to hook it. Once it fell, it promptly got lost in the leaves and dirt under our feet. Of course. Christian shrugged, and mentioned “it happens”, and bade me to grab another worm to doom to its watery grave. To the worm’s bad luck, I did exactly that.

I got this hook through the worm, and how it squirmed then, as I would have if I had a hook thrust through my abdomen. However for now, I was the higher life form, and he wriggled for me instead. I watched Christian cast his line, and as I threw my pole back, in order to cast the line forward and far, I felt a pull on the line before my forward movement.

I looked back, and saw my line hooked on a bush that was behind me a few feet. I went to unhook it, and noticed my unfortunate worm was no longer hooked, and missing in action. I looked down, and saw only leaves, gravel and dirt.

Lucky worm I suppose. I’m sure it was grateful, and thanking whatever Gods worms pray to, that it was safely wiggling its way back into soft Earth, compliments of my personal ineptness. I quietly wished the worm well.

Christian shrugged, and motioned again towards the bait box, so I helped myself to the third unfortunate worm. It seemed a bit bigger, and definitely didn’t like having a fishing hook jammed through its squirming body. I can’t really blame it. It didn’t look fun, nor painless. Better the worm than me though I thought. So Christian graciously redemonstrated the technique of drawing back the pole, in order to cast it further, and get a nice distance to catch a fish, very kind of him to show me again.

So I carefully drew my pole back, and tried to smoothly but quickly throw it forward, in the same manner as I just witnessed. I certainly tried to reproduce his performance, but I felt a sudden thrust upward and forward in the back of my pants! I was halfway thrown towards the railing, and the fast moving Niagara river before me.

It was a strong push, as strong as my own efforts, and of course, it turned out it was my effort that caused this. When I drew my line back behind me, the hook caught in my waist, and thrust me forward, when I made my strong forward throw. Christian caught me by the shoulder as I hit the railing, and pointed out that I had caught only MYSELF!

I was just like a fish I suppose. He helped me unhook the hook, and logically, the worm was nowhere to be seen. He had escaped, good for him. Here stood a completely failed fisherman, lost three worms already, and my hook never even hit the water. The story of my life, a recurring theme, naturally.

Luckily Christian noticed and helped me get off the hook,Yet a third worm escaped to its wormy life and freedom. Chalk up yet another victory for lower life forms. In my clumsiness, I must have been a literal Godsend for the worms in the bait box, so far three of them wriggled to safety. I was glad for them, yet sad for myself. It seemed like fishing was not exactly in my blood. Not something I was naturally gifted at,not even close. If I was a fishing boat Captain, my vessel would have sunk long ago, lost with all its crew. and deservedly so.

I reached yet for another doomed worm, fourth try I HAD to catch a fish right? That was my mentality at the time. This time I slowly reached back, watching that my hook wouldn’t catch on anything, including myself, and I slowly but surely cast my line out into the far brown water of the river.

I successfully sent my line out, and it drifted. As of yet, Christian had no bites, and mainly watched me attend my line. After a while he told me to reel mine in slowly, and maybe I’d get a bite. I reeled it in, of course, carefully,no hurry, and brought it home all the way, and no luck, as did he next to me.

So he proposed we both cast yet again, and very far if possible, and maybe we’d have a bit of luck. Turns out I had some strange luck certainly, but not what either one of us expected. We both cast our lines, and mine went quite far out, almost one third across the Niagara river this time. I slowly started reeling in, and immediately felt a pull, and fairly strong. However, I was not an active pull, and no resisting, simply a pull of weight. I excitedly told Christian of this, and he advised me to slowly reel in what I had, and see where this led. He still had no nibbles whatsoever, and watched intently as I reeled in my line.

It seemed to drag on the bottom, and I had to move my pole around a lot, as it seemed to get wedged around various debris at the bottom of the river, but even so, I slowly pulled it in, fully expecting either an old boot, or a piece of trash, but not a fish, surely, since there was no opposing movements. To my and Christians surprise, when I finally got it above the water, it turned out to be a very NICE open reel fishing pole! Bright green,open reel, and quite expensive, from what I was told.

So I never actually caught a fish, that day or any other day, but I caught my own fishing pole using a borrowed pole. Such is the stuff of legends, unbelievable, but it happened to me that day. Christian caught no fish,sadly, but I was not unhappy, my catch was pretty good.

Such are the whims of this quirky Universe, that laughs quite often at my antics, and misfortunes,and adds a few unique twists here and there. By now I’m almost used to it. We walked home, back to West ave, no fish, but a nice catch for me regardless. It was something I never forgot, to this day, I went fishing, and caught a fishing pole. Another strange story of my life.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Humor, Memoir, True Story, Young Adult (YA)

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