By Christine Cunningham, for the Redoubt Reporter
The chances of catching fish were very, very small that day. So small, it was safe to say it could not be done. Not by me. According to my calculations, determined by faithfully logging all of my fishing occasions in a weather-resistant journal, then entering the data into fields in a database, which could be manipulated to determine patterns of success or failure, a fish could not be caught when the wind came out of the east.
Still, my nephews wanted to go fishing, and it wasn’t my fault that they picked a day with an easterly wind. Fishing parents often have contingency plans for the inevitable problem of disinterest. Plenty of snacks and a Plan B — sledding or ice skating, for instance. Under no circumstances was the Plan B to include matches or fire-building, their mothers told me.
“Not after last time.”
Since last time, all plans required clearance, so my Plan B was to bring hot chocolate. I forgot the hot chocolate.
Luckily, my 8-year-old nephew, Patrick, had only one plan. Within seconds of arriving at the lake he dropped his line down one of the holes I’d drilled. Before his dad could comment on the weather or his cousin, 9-year-old William, could choose a lure from the tackle box, Patrick was fighting his first fish. I tested the wind direction. It hadn’t changed.
As Patrick’s dad and I wrestled the 12-inch char away from two tiny hands, Patrick jumped up and down on the ice in mad anticipation. “Hurry, hurry,” he said. The fish had swallowed the hook, but Patrick couldn’t stand to wait for us to get the lure out. He ran over to my rod and plopped my 1-ounce spoon into another hole. Just as we dislodged the hook, Patrick had another fish on.
We all ran over to the second hole, where Patrick reeled up a slightly smaller fish. He pawed it unmercifully and appeared to be putting the fish in a half nelson. “We’re going to have to keep this one, too,” I said.
These were stocked fish, and plenty edible. Certainly they could not survive a wrestling match with an 8-year-old. “Let’s be nicer to the fish,” I said.
Patrick was already fishing with his own rod again. His tongue was sticking out of his mouth as he focused his attention down the hole. Ten feet away, William looked confused. Apparently, William and I lived in the same logical world, a world that accepted defeat before it ever came.
“Why aren’t I catching fish?” William said.
“I guess we’re not holding our mouths right,” I said.
We both watched as Patrick reeled up his third fish with his tongue clinched between his teeth and his little blue eyes bulging with excitement.
“This one’s big,” he said. “I’m gonna need help.”
It was hard to break it to him that he was hooked on the under edge of the ice. By the time I got there, he had broken the line.
“Ahhhhhgh,” Patrick said.
“We’re going to have to tie on another hook,” I said.
“Do you want to learn how to tie a fisherman’s knot?” I asked.
This was the fun part where my experience would be admired by young children. William watched with fascination.
“I don’t have time for that. I’m going to go back to my rod,” Patrick said.
Within moments he was fighting a fish out of the same hole William had just abandoned as futile.
“This is just ridiculous,” I said to his father.
Since we had started fishing after my workday, we had to quit early so the two boys could take their fish to enter in the last days of the Trustworthy Icefishing Derby. Patrick had seven fish, and William had one.
“One more,” Patrick said. “One more!”
“You have five minutes,” his father said.
We watched as Patrick limited out.
“Time’s up,” his dad said.
“That wasn’t five minutes!” Patrick cried. “I still have minutes!”
After a few photos, we packed up the gear and headed back to the vehicles. It was annoying to listen to Patrick scream, “But I love to fish, I love to fish,” at the top of his lungs, as though some government authority would rescue him from our abusive enforcement of the fishing laws.
By the time we were halfway to the parking lot, he’d mellowed out quite a bit.
“You’re quite the impressive fisherman,” I said. “I don’t think I would have caught a fish today because of the wind. I could probably learn something from you.”
“I should write a book on fishing,” Patrick said.
“What would your book say?” his father asked. “Drop your line in the hole and stick out your tongue?”
“It wouldn’t be a long book,” Patrick said.
Christine Cunningham was born in Alaska and has lived on the Kenai Peninsula for the last 20 years, where she enjoys fishing, hunting and outdoors recreation. Her book, “Women Hunting Alaska,” was released by Northern Publishing in January 2013. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.