The time had come: Kaveh was now eleven years old and asking to go fishing. I went on several fishing trips as a teenager but never really considered myself much of a fisherman. The last trip I went on was about thirty years ago. My Dad and my Uncle John took Rob, my cousin Dave and me to Boundary Waters between Minnesota and Canada for a canoe trip. The first few days was really fun despite rowing all day and portaging the canoes over land to the next lake over and over again. Then it started raining like every day, and we couldn’t seem to catch a single fish. Uncle John was the most avid outdoorsman among us, but our brains hadn’t really matured enough to heed his firm recommendations like not touching the waterproof spray on the tent ceiling. Well, this was hard to do when having a massive pillow fight between three teenagers, but of course we didn’t stop complaining about it later when our tent leaked on us as we tried to sleep.
But it wasn’t just us—even my Dad didn’t listen to him. Uncle John strongly advised him not to go out and brush his teeth one night because the mosquitoes were out in force. Well, he dashed out anyhow saying, “I’ll be really quick,” leaving the tent flap open. Just as my uncle fell asleep, he was startled awake by a loud yelp and a splash followed by a lot of cussing, “God dammit, son of a bitch!” A minute later my soaking wet dad came charging back and practically dove into the tent along with about a hundred bird-sized mosquitoes. He said he lost his footing on a slippery rock while bending over to rinse his mouth and swatting mosquitoes. Uncle John just laughed and said, “I told you not to go out there!” We ended up heading back a few days early and cutting our trip short because of the constant rain.
Even though I hadn’t fished since that trip, it seemed like something every dad should do with his kids. I figured I should buck up to my fatherly duties and give it a try. We headed out to Lake Irvine in the sweltering month of August on a 90-degree day. We rented 3 poles and I asked the guy at the desk what kind of bait to use. He recommended mackerel because we’d really only be catching catfish this time of year. I groaned because the last time I caught a catfish as a teenager, it stung my hand trying to take it off the line, so I basically wanted to catch anything but catfish. I thought the mackerel would be better than squishy worms or other live bait because it’s just chunks of fish that you stick on the hook. Unfortunately, it was so greasy and smelly that I couldn’t get the goo and stink off my hands even after scrubbing with seaweed.
I figured out the fishing pole pretty quickly and taught the kids how to do it, but every time they would cast the line, the mackerel flew off before it hit the water. This happened about four or five times in a row, even though I made sure to hook it through the thick skin. I didn’t seem to have any problem with it, so I tried showing them how to cast smoother instead of jerking the pole forward but to no avail. Given our rapidly depleting bait supply, I just ended up casting for them which defeated the whole purpose.
We got snagged on seaweed a bunch of times, but the fish weren’t biting. Meanwhile, with the sun blazing down from a cloudless sky, it kept getting hotter, and I couldn’t stop the sweat that was constantly running into my eyes. I didn’t want to take my sunglasses off to rub my eyes with my shirt because my hands were so greasy and stinky, but my eyeballs began to really sting like they were bleeding. I finally gave in and snatched them off my face with a grimace, rubbing the sweat off with my shoulder sleeves as best I could. Now my sunglasses stunk like rotting mackerel which was even closer to my nose and I almost gagged. I still can’t get the memory of that smell out of my head.
We saw a pier off in the distance that Kaveh insisted on fishing from, so we walked and sweated for half a mile and as soon as we arrived, the sign said nobody is permitted on the pier. I couldn’t see the harm in it and since we walked all the way over here, I told them to just follow me onto the pier. Less than a minute later, a rancher came out of nowhere and told us to get off the pier as he pointed out the large sign. I didn’t bother to ask why, just herded the boys off with my tail between my legs.
We walked back along the shore trying to find a place that looked decent enough to fish from that wasn’t covered with seaweed. Kian was lagging behind us and then suddenly I heard him call out for help. His shoe got stuck and came off in a puddle of muck about a foot deep. I had to run back and trudge in after him because he thought he was sinking in quicksand. I rescued him and his shoe, only to see Kaveh mindlessly following behind me into the muck as well. So now we all had muddy shoes to wear back into my freshly detailed car. We tried fishing again with no luck at all. The kids never really got the hang of casting and their lines kept tangling up and it kept getting hotter and I couldn’t stop sweating into my bleeding eyeballs and our mackerel kept flying off until I finally blurted out, “That’s it, I quit! We’re leaving! I’m never going fishing again!”
Kaveh and Kian weren’t quite ready to go home yet so they kept casting, but I couldn’t take it anymore so started walking back ahead of them. They finally saw that I meant business so grudgingly followed along behind me. I turned my pole in and promptly went to the restroom to scrub the disgusting fish grease off my hands and sunglasses. During this time, my kids arrived to return their poles, but somehow Kaveh’s reel was completely empty of line. The guy behind the desk gave him a confused look but didn’t say anything else about it. He had apparently been dragging his hook on the ground because when we walked outside, I noticed his line stretched out hundreds of feet out the door and down the path! I asked him how in the world he didn’t realize his line was spinning out, but he just shrugged his shoulders. Years later, he admitted that he knew it was coming out but just hoped he wouldn’t get caught so didn’t say anything.
Now I don’t pretend to understand how my mind works, but I hadn’t given up on fishing after that epic fail of a day. Just because that day sucked, doesn’t mean we wouldn’t enjoy it the next time. We could try again when it’s cooler and just use a different bait! For Christmas, I surprised them with shiny new fishing poles and a tackle box.
Pooneh laughed her head off, saying how it was the dumbest Christmas gift I ever bought and a waste of money, almost as bad as the snow skis I got for everyone the year before. She made me return the skis for the obvious reason that they would grow out of them in a year, and she doesn’t ski often enough to own a pair. I remained obstinate that I would make good use them, but ten years later I used them a total of two times.
Kian had enough that first day and never wanted to fish again, but Kaveh was willing to give it another go. Off we went back to Irvine Lake, walking toward the shore like Andy Griffith and Opie with our new poles resting back atop our shoulders. I even tried whistling but never really developed the knack. I gave up after making the same monotone sound that could barely be heard over Kaveh laughing about pursing my lips the wrong way.
Believe it or not, we actually had an enjoyable day. We used a much cleaner bait this time and the weather was perfect. The lady next to us got a bite and was kind enough to let Kaveh reel it in for his first fish ever, and then we each caught a few more after that. I guess I just had to knock that off my bucket list because we never went fishing again after that.