“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him all good things-trout as well as eternal salvation-come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.” – Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories
One of the first books I read when traveling had become my passion was Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It and Other Stories. The novella was presented from the point of view of the older brother of a Presbyterian family in rural Montana and centered on their devotion to fly fishing. And for some strange reasons, fly fishing or fishing for that matter really piqued my interest. I wished then that I can be like Norman, or Rev. Maclean who made the rivers of Missoula as their sanctuary.
In the intervening years, that passion never ceased to die down albeit it struggled hard to remain in my consciousness. So, in the 13 Things That I Should Be Doing In 2013, Deep/Open Sea Fishing in sixth in the list.
This is not the priority activity though but nevertheless I grabbed the opportunity when it was presented to me. And it is the first to be accomplished!
On July 28, 1984, then the President of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan declared the official opening of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics
On the same weekend, I joined my late Tatang who went out to our rice paddies called bulala to catch some freshwater fishes. In years of yore, rice fields were teeming with fishes of various sizes and species. Commercial, hazardous and toxic agricultural chemicals have caused their habitat’s demise. Indeed, those were no tall tales! As the organizers, officials and delegates of the 23rd Olympiad were in great revelry at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, in that speck-of-dust part of the globe there was a nine-year old kid who proudly and victoriously hoisted his first catch, a 15-inch mudfish, seemingly like an Olympic gold medal and record at the same time.
Of all the many things my late father was skillful at, fishing was one of them. During rainy seasons and the waters in the stream in our barrio would go high, Tatang and my older brothers would set his net and overnight big and small fishes were caught. For a big family such as ours, the catch would be more than enough to tide us over the next few days or until the buro my late Inang made had ran out. Orphaned at a young age of ten when his father was beheaded by his Japanese captors during the Second World War, Tatang unwittingly became the head of his family. Growing up, he had to learn many practical skills quickly and diligently.
He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” – John 21:5-6 NIV
Very early in the morning of January 8, we started the engine and made our way to the sea. Things looked rosy when in the first hour a fish nearly got caught. But the greenhorn in me failed to get the rod on time and it escaped. Hours passed and there were no fish. So, we headed back to Pundaquit. I remained upbeat though.
At 3PM we embarked in another fishing trip. We went westward, into the West Philippine Sea. The waves were a little rougher and bigger. More than two hours had passed and I was facing the specter of another epic fail and defeat. But I still maintained a positive outlook, putting a good spin out of any possible outcome.
Just as the sun was about to get drown in the West Philippine Sea, a sweet, beautiful, and soothing noise suddenly burst, drowning the rhythm of the waves. There was a force beneath the sea which was pulling down the line. Not losing any bit of composure and buoyed up by finally bagging a handsome prize, that 20-minute power struggle was nothing but a pleasurable parlor game. In the end, man wins! And that 6.7-kilogram giant trevally will go down in my history books as my first catch in the open and deep sea.
“So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it. There were 153 large fish.” – John 21:6, 11 NLT