Have you ever seen a fish brain? Me neither. Most people haven’t because fish brains are so small they are practically invisible. Yet every day, fish, with their microscopic brains, get the best of real, live human beings who are the end-product of millions of years of evolution. Of course, fish are also the end-product of millions of years of evolution but they really haven’t made the strides humans have in the opposable thumb and cerebral cortex departments. Plus, I am guessing not even a stupid fish could dream up something like a bass tournament.
But we’re not talking about bass tournaments today. We’re talking about regular fishing, where a guy with a fishing pole and a six pack goes out to the lake to relax and maybe catch dinner.
Steve and I used to do a lot of fishing. We would load up the truck with basic necessities and by that I mean bug spray and beef jerky then strike out for the northern reaches of civilization and by that I mean Canada. A man with a float plane and an impossible weight limitation therein would deposit us on a lake known only to him and the local bears. In an example of a totally senseless phobia, I am afraid of bears. Even when my fear center is in overdrive, my head knows there are very few bear attacks these days. But, as Bill Bryson points out, that’s not because the bears have signed a treaty. They could go on a rampage at any moment.
Our cabin on this lake was constructed of incredibly thin fiber board that would not keep out a determined second grader, much less a hungry bear. Acquiring drinking water meant taking the boat down to one end of the lake and making a short hike to a spring. We strolled along the path in a leisurely manner with our buckets, taking in the forest’s beauty, feeling at one with nature. On the way back, right smack dab in the middle of the path was a fresh — very fresh — pile of bear doo-doo. Let me tell you, there was nothing leisurely about the remainder of the sprint to the boat, taking in the horror of ravenous eyes on us, feeling like something’s lunch.
On this trip, sure enough, the fish had the upper hand, or fin. Once, when I had a giant fish on the line, Steve went to net it and the fish (you know, the creature with approximately one cell of gray matter), outsmarted us by finding the hole in the net and slipping away. It’s unclear if this says more about the fish’s brain or ours. Dumb fish may not have the first five senses (do they have ears?) but they do have a sixth sense about when fisherpersons are not paying attention. Let your focus wander for just a minute, and there goes your fishing pole — splash — over the side of the boat or straight off the dock. The last you see of it, it is being towed away by an animal that doesn’t have enough sense not to eat worms.
We fish in Florida, too. Fishing in Florida has one advantage over fishing in Canada. In Florida, it seldom snows in June. When we would manage to snag a hapless southern fish, it would swim right into the weeds and tangle our lines. After this happened a couple of times, Steve had had enough. Against all odds, he was alert when the next fish hit. He started reeling it in when it went — true to form — right into the weeds. “Hold this,” he said, thrusting the fishing pole at me. “I’m going in after it.”
Well, I have never thought of fishing as a tag team sport, but I never thought of it as an X-rated sport, either. Steve yanked off his pants and went right off the end of the dock to do battle with the fish, the weeds, the tangled line, and apparently, the honor of all humankind in our unceasing aggression against the world of fish. This seemed inadvisable for several reasons. In the first place, there are alligators in that lake. In the second place, there are alligators in that lake. No matter what the nice Realtor lady tells you, there are alligators in every lake in Florida. And most swimming pools. Personally, I would rather lose a fishing pole than my right lower leg but perhaps I didn’t fully understand about the honor of all humankind.
Steve finally did wrassle that fish out of the weeds and retrieve his fishing pole and restore sensibility to the higher order of things. Then he threw it back.
The writer resides in Covington.