Healed at the Fishing Clinic

by Mary Clista Dahl

Just when I thought she could not surprise me anymore, my 21-year-old daughter agreed to accompany her crazy mom on a fishing clinic for women.  Our one-on-one time has diminished considerably recently.  In her spare time the laptop and social media are her companions.  So beyond the occasional dinner out or shared chick flick, our communication lacks.  She generally makes fun of me when I invite her to my nature outings, but this time she took the bait.

I had been fishing sporadically since I was a little girl, but with little fundamental knowledge.  Someone would always bait my hook and hand it to me and if I did catch something it was randomly, not strategically, and I would helplessly hand over the pole to someone who would release the fish and attach fresh bait.  I always had a nice time, but this clinic helped me understand more.

On the day before the clinic, I asked my daughter if she were still planning on coming out, fearing an excuse, but she kept her promise.  We hopped in the car the next morning for the hour-long drive.  She had her face intently buried in a book, so there was little conversation beyond “Could you pass the snacks,” but I cherished her presence.

We met our group in a parking lot; four ladies and a soft-spoken nature guy with a ponytail.  We headed down a rural road complete with steeply graded asphalt hills bordered by tall grass.  On we went until we turned off onto a bumpy narrow dirt road that opened up into a clearing with a cabin and pond.  We laid our blankets in a shady spot nearby where our instructor described all of the different types of fishing equipment.  His passion came alive in his words, so I learned a lot.  My daughter was intent as well, passing and investigating the reels and lures as he spoke.  He occasionally interrupted himself to identify the lightning bug on his hand or the sound of a nearby bullfrog, his intent always on nature.

The class was motley at best, me in my T-Shirt and khaki shorts with water sandals, my daughter decked out in matching black tank top, capris, sneakers and sunglasses. Another was bedazzled in dressy blouse and jewelry everywhere.  Teacher showed us how to line our poles and put the bait on.  Then we learned how to cast.  There were obstacles including vegetation and low hanging branches.  My daughter cautioned me about those, speaking loudly to my clumsy side.  We cast a thousand fold in that particular pond, with no collective results, so we jumped in our vehicles and headed to another spot.

The new pond was entirely shade free, and the border invaded by cattails to the point where our teacher felt it necessary to use a tool for clearing.  He set up the two other ladies there, and my daughter and I were directed to a place around the bend.  By then our casting skills had developed, and my daughter was throwing line well into the pond.  Since she hadn’t caught anything at this point, her technique as she brought the line back was to repeat the “F” word (not Fish), which horrified me until I heard the jeweled student from afar declaring the same.  Meanwhile, we heard the unmistakable splash and victory cheers of the first catch of the day coming from across the water.  The best dressed had succeeded.  Before long her friend had as well.  My daughter got her lure caught up on a cattail and wondered if I would wade up to my thighs and retrieve it for her.  My sandals squished through the silt bottom, bringing up more than just mud; happy memories of my childhood searches for pollywogs.  I freed her lure and she thanked me with refreshing joy.

We joined the others at the original spot because it seemed fruitful.  My teacher, having witnessed my trek into the water invited me to bring down some more cattails with the tool, which I did.  We began casting and before long, my daughter captured a bass.  That put an end to her swearing, and she caught two more that afternoon.

In five hours of fishing, different casts and strategies, I managed to catch nothing.  But I was not disheartened, because I didn’t come home empty handed.  I had reeled in a day out in nature filled with wildlife, birds, plant life and insects all under a big blue sky.  I took advantage of the opportunity to reflect in serenity while pretending to land a fish.  Positive thoughts and encouragement from good people surrounded me.   And I enjoyed a wireless mother-daughter bonding session learning something new in the outdoors laughing most of the way.