For as long as anyone can remember, my hearty Scandinavian family has been setting out to sea.And returning without so much as one stinking fish.
Aunt Ebba set our fishing incompetence standard for many generations to come when on her first and only cast ever, she threw her entire rig straight to the bottom of a very deep lake.
Her excuse was that nobody had instructed her to hold onto the rod. A jury of her peers found her guilty of being an idiot, and pointed and laughed at her for the next 20 years.
Great-Uncle Gunnar was the most famous fisherman in our family, and, incidentally, also holds the Isanti County record for bladder infections.
In 60 horrendous years of fishing, Gunnar landed only one trophy fish. It was a lake trout, and legend has it that the great fish weighed 40 pounds or so.
Nobody will ever know for sure, because problems arose once the fish left the water, and joined Gunnar in the boat. Seems the fish was thrashing around pretty good, and Gunnar grabbed the nearest oar to dispatch the brute to fish heaven. The fish leaped at the exact moment Gunnar swung, and apparently the ensuring gaping hole in the boat was a wonder to behold.
Given the family legacy, it was not without a gnawing sense of certain doom that my father and I planned our first fishing expedition together.
I was 11, and the trip was designed to be a bonding ritual for the two of us. My idea—a bonding evening at the Anoka Community Theatre’s production of The Boyfriend—was completely ignored.
And why did boys my age like worms? I hated worms then, and, to be honest, am extremely disgusted by them now. How do you know which end is the poop end?
But I digress.
Birch Island Lodge in Canada was our destination, and we were more than ready. My father had brought his favorite reel, a Pfleuger Supreme, and it was a thing of beauty. Thanks to Aunt Ebba, I knew I wouldn’t be getting my hands on that particular piece of equipment anytime soon.
A Native American guide was assigned to us at the lodge. Although I’d like to say his name was Crazy Elk or something equally cool, his father was a habitual practical joker, and had named him Standing Rib Roast.
There were muskies in these parts. They just happen to be not only the meanest fish that swim in fresh water, but also the hardest to catch. They most resemble a torpedo with teeth, and the rumor was that even an expert could fish for years, and never catch one.
Standing suggested we try our luck, and for the next three days, we fished completely uninterrupted by any fish. Because of our family history, however, we took the situation completely in stride. We instinctively knew the lack of action was merely the calm before the inevitable lull.
This cease-fire in the fishing wars gave Dad and me the opportunity to talk about all the things we had in common. (Insert sound of crickets here.)
Following these seconds of conversation, we turned dutifully back to the job at hand. There was to be no shiny rod crowned by the exalted Supreme for the likes of me. No. I fished like early man, with nothing more than a single baited hook suspended from a stout hand line.
It was a primitive tool, but we were primitive people. After many hours of successfully hooking thousands of submerged logs and boulders, I fell primitively asleep.
I was awakened by a jolt that could only mean I’d tied into a real keeper of a log. I began to laboriously wind my line in, and suddenly the log broke water. The log had teeth, and it looked suspiciously like the fabled esox masquinongy, to be real Latin about it.
Next thing I knew, we were back at the lodge, posing for pictures that my father still flashes when anyone has the gall to challenge the reputation of our seagoing clan.
The picture shows a beaming father and a dumbfounded kid with a 21-pound fish. That’s not big as muskies go, but I’ve gone fishing at least twice since, and have never caught one bigger.
Consider the source here, but secretly, I hope I never do.
Bye for now.