A Fish Story

I like to fish. I’m not a professional angler, but I like to wet a line when I can.

“Hey, wait, isn’t this is a writing website? What does fishing have to do with it?”

I hear you. Today, I’m going to demonstrate a way to relate a true story. Here’s something I wrote about a fishing trip a few years ago.

Okay – so here goes. You may laugh at appropriate points during the story.

Yesterday, I went fishing. This in itself is not unusual, except I usually don’t fish. Don’t have much time, money, or equipment to do it with. But yesterday, I bought a cheap (remember that word – you’ll see it again later) fishing pole and went fishing with some friends of my wife.

I was having a good time, eating picnic food and talking. They loaned me a PFD – since I’m not a good swimmer – and we set out on a boat. Well, more precisely, a boat about six and a half feet long and about three inches wide. No worries – still had fun.

My wife was telling me “what not to do” if I fell out of the boat. I kept thinking, “That’s all true, but what if I don’t fall out of the boat?” That wasn’t in my plans, you see.

So, we cast off, we being me and one of the other guys, with poles, bait, and a cement block for an anchor. And two paddles. Tried one spot – nope. Drag up the anchor, go somewhere else. Hmm … catfish. Not bad if you cook them right, but not what I wanted. Especially at less than eight inches. No worries – drag and go somewhere else.

Did I mention that I hadn’t paddled a boat in about 20 years?

About this time, the first of about 12 idiots in much larger high powered motorboat go blazing by under the bridge, where we were. I would like to note for the record that a tiny boat makes for a ride to remember – when the large wakes come in.

About that time, my rod bends double. I suppose the shrimp on the hook could have attracted something. Either that or I’ve just hooked the anchor line – again. So, I start reeling and reeling, and my cheap reel starts binding and the boat starts tipping about to the point where half an inch remains from the gunwale to the water – and I see a flash of scales and fins!

I’m thinking “Fish sandwiches!”

Pull and reel, pull and reel, pull and reel – it jumps out of the water a couple of times and my buddy in the back starts yelling a few things I can’t type here. And the boat is rocking back and forth. PFD’s are a good thing to have, just in case – I’m thinking.

We get a good look at it, and it’s a snapper, easily as long as my arm and really meaty – I’m thinking “LOTS of fish sandwiches!”

No ruler, mind you, but we both saw it. I get it up to the surface, and I ask DJ, “Where’s the net?!”

He curses and says, “What net??”

I look this hooked fish on the line in the eye – and the line snaps. A flash of scales and a fishy laugh, and he’s gone.

After a moment (or two or three) of disbelief, I say, “Well, darn.” Well – not exactly, but this is a family forum. “I’m out a hook – where’s the tackle box?”

He looks at me, and says, “Uhhh, it’s on shore.” Which happens to be a looooong way off. So, we paddle a loooooong way off, reprovision, and paddle all over creation.

After that we caught nothing but eight inch catfish.

Had fun, but that one got away.

And did I mention that today is my birthday, and that I *really* wanted fish sandwiches for my snack???

This is an example of a “tall tale.” Except, it really happened. I almost fell out of that little boat that wasn’t much longer than I was tall, three times. My line was snapped, and there was no net. There was saltwater two and a half inches from the gunwales of that little boat.

The guy I went fishing with that day had mentioned beforehand about this boat, but didn’t give details.I should have figured something was up when he pulled it out of the back of his El Camino.

When I got home, I purchased my own net. It’s in the garage, next to my tackle box and my rods. I didn’t put that in the story above, even though it’s as true as all the rest.

Notice that I repeated the phrase “fish sandwiches?” Reiteration of a theme can strengthen your writing theme. In this case, fishing. I like fish sandwiches, and you don’t get fish sandwiches without – wait for it – fish.

Every so often I would interject little asides like the “no paddling in 20 years,” which made things stack up more again the protagonist and create conflict. Never mind the fact that this time, the protagonist is yours truly. This was written using humor in an ironical sense.

I think one day, I’m going fishing again. I know a snapper that has a date with destiny and a hot charcoal grill. With butter, lemon, pepper and a light dusting of cilantro.

Happy writing.

-JB Steele

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