Let me introduce you to my little fishing buddy Chris. His dad renamed him "fish" once they moved to a house on the river and noticed his love of fishing.
He was a charming little boy. A boy who loved to be competitive. I think you can tell by the little smirk in his face. Don't let that angelic look fool you. He always had an angle. Like kids do. In the picture I am sure he is scheming on how he was going to talk me into "digging for worms" and go fishing on a Sunday morning....even if I was hung over. He would already know we were out with his parents the night before drinking wine and dining on steak and lobster.
But who could resist a face like that? And the cajoling he did to make it seem worthwhile to get me out of bed was amazing. I am surprised he didn't end up being a car salesman...seriously.
I did a quick look into my photo albums and scanned this one of him at the river waving a yellow belly cat fish, or maybe a boot? My mom and dad were usually with us when we went fishing and we always had at .25 cent bet for the first fish caught of the day. And Chris being who he was ...would claim anything near his line.
Then he moved away when he was a little older. And didn't need the balonie no more. He moved to the west coast with his parents and left me all alone on the riverbank. But...I still had one more nephew who needed fishing guidance, so I tucked him under my arm, and started all over again. Fortunately my Mom and Dad were still around and we put another notch on our belts.
Okay..... I have been telling my side of the story tooooo long.
Chris... tell your side.
There comes a time in everyone's life (usually within weeks of retirement) when the phrase "the older I get, the better I was" becomes meaningful. Were you were to sit down with Baloney (ever wonder how she got that name?) she would happily regale you with stories of how she invariably caught not only the biggest fish, but also the most fish. Although this is a happy place for Joan, it isn’t anywhere close to that town called “Reality.”
Joan: Yes, you gave the name balonie.. so far that's all you got right mister. I just changed the spelling.
Now my memory is a bit fuzzy for the first couple years of fishing. I was only six years old when Joan decided she needed someone to joust with. Fishing poles being a splendid substitute for a lance, we were off to the Red River. Although Joan speaks of the necessity for patience, I will tell you up front, I have never been a patient person. But that was ok. While Joan was practicing her “patience” skills I kept busy with all the fish. I am very happy that Joan was able to master the art of patience. I guess I just preferred catching fish.
It quickly became evident that Joan’s calling was on the filleting side of our fishing adventure, and I did manage to keep her busy. Given the volume of fish I was supplying, she did an amazing job. You would have to eat at least two fish fillets before you found a bone. Some opined that she was trying to kill me with fish bones, but since she kept inviting me back, I chose to assume that the calcium was good for my growing bones and she simply had my best interests at heart.
Joan: I call bullshit...but carry on Chris.. I still have the filleting knife and I know how to use it.
I found I got even more invites if I phoned her on the weekends to remind her that she had the access to worms and that the fish weren’t going to catch themselves. I guess after years of watching how easily and often I would reel them in, she began to think that perhaps they did catch themselves. As for those ponderings about her looking forward to sleeping in when she retires, I have my doubts. Not once, while I was around, did I see her sleep in. Every time I called, no matter how early, she would always answer the phone and mumble something about not having the worms yet. Then it was mumble, mumble, mumble … coffee, and I will so kick your early morning (mumble) when I see you in a couple hours you (mumble) little (mumble). Not sure what that was all about, but she always showed up with worms.
Joan: he just made that up...I swear. The phone would ring and I would tell Gordon not to answer it because I KNEW WHO IT WAS.
She was always very considerate that way. She would bring two for her, and a couple dozen for me. Perhaps her drowning two worms prepared her for the carnage of filleting all those fish later.
Joan: I'm sorry to interject again... I had to bring a 100 for you, because you would only take the BIG ones and left the little red wiggler guys for us.
As a young boy, living on or near the Red River, with parents who wouldn’t dream of spending time jousting, my aunt Joan was a God send! Not only did she take the time to take and teach me, she did it often. A lot of lessons are learned while watching the river flow by. I owe a lot to my aunty Baloney.
When I was twelve years old, I was fortunate enough to be invited to Victoria to go salmon fishing with my uncle Zack. An early morning departure from Winnipeg resulted in a late morning arrival in Victoria. Once at my uncle’s house, being the well mannered little boy that I was, I quickly asked when we were going fishing. My uncle Zack looked out the window and simply said it was too rough to go out. I asked how he knew that and he pointed out the gently swaying leaves of the tree in his back yard.
Now having spent a lot of time with Joan, I recognized a “fish story” right away. Once again, showing my fine upbringing I explained to Zack that he didn’t have to lie to me. If he didn’t want to go fishing, he could just tell me.
A funny smile came over his face, and he told me to get my shoes on. Now I can’t say that I had ever been in ten foot swells riding a sixteen foot boat, but something about us being on the ocean just then didn’t feel right.
After about an hour, we got a hit. I set the hook, and started to reel in my first salmon. The salmon had other ideas and I let it run. That was when Zack started the teasing. “Come on! It is just a little fish! What are you letting it run for?”
Fortunately, Joan had prepared me well for this sort of fishing banter. By this time I had listened to six years of similar banter that resulted in Joan unhappily eating those words, but happily eating my fish. So I simply told Zack that I knew what I was doing. I’d been taught by the best for the past six years so I know when to let a fish run and when to ignore a jealous fisherman.
About fifteen minutes later we had a thirty-two pound salmon in the boat. Now in the spirit of full disclosure, it was a good thing that Zack was both quick and good with the net. When that fish surfaced next to the boat, it freaked me out more than just a little.
That fish was longer than I was tall. I guess since we are on the topic, I should also thank Joan for always being there with the net for me. Not once did that rising bile problem get in the way of netting my big fish.
Joan: You did good...let'r run...and try to getter back slowly . Remember the huge bruise I had on my stomach getting in that 20 pound cat fish. I was holding the rod in my stomach and I didn't even notice it while I was trying to get it in. I took almost an hour. It was unbelievable.
In more recent years, I have shared with Joan many pictures of me holding 48 pound salmon and 78 pound halibut. I guess I feel the need to share these things with my sensei.
Now it is my turn to pass on the fishing bug and have happily sat in a boat and operated the net while my daughters and their friends and cousins reel in the fish. I hope I am as great a teacher as mine was. I’ve already screwed up once, and my daughter Jessica reminds me of it often. The biggest fish Jessica has caught so far was lost right next to the boat because dad forgot the net on shore. I can’t in all honesty say that Joan ever made such an egregious error. But then she has always been pretty sneaky.
Thank you Joan for the trip down memory lane. And thank you for being one of my teachers. This student has gone far with the help of many teachers. Joan will always be one of my best teachers
Joan: And Chris you will always be he coolest guy I ever met. And I love being you auntie balonie.