Why didn’t I learn to fish?

A walk along a creek brings back memories of my husband, Sumio.

My family and I used to go camping when I was a child. My grandfather would patiently sit on the banks of Oak Creek Canyon, in Sedona, Arizona and put the worms on my fishing line. I hated the feel of the worms. They were so slimy. He also used salmon eggs. Nobody really paid much attention. My three brothers ran through the creek kicking up water and throwing stones and watching them skip and yelling. My grandfather would say “Don’t scare the fish”.  My grandfather never became angry. He would get them to be quiet for about three minutes. The noise started again. I was the only girl and I wanted my grandfather to like me. I sat there patiently waiting for the fish to bite. They never did.

I met a man who loved to fish. This time I am catching eel in the Toyokawa river in Japan. I still do not like touching worms. Sumio carefully puts the bait on the hook and I throw the line into the river. Fishing for eel takes place at night. I can’t see anything. The moon is very bright and is giving off some light. My pole begins to wiggle, and I scream, “It’s a snake.” My husband calmly says, “It’s an unagi.” I continue to fish with Sumio.

We move to Michigan. Sumio checks out all of the lakes and streams. On Saturdays and Sundays, we leave the house about 4:00 am. We prepare sandwiches, onigiri, fruits, boiled eggs, and coffee. We throw blankets and pillows into the car for our daughter to sleep on. The happiness he feels when he catches a fish shows all over his face. Sometimes he is not very successful. There is always tomorrow.

We travel to California for the holidays to visit my family. We always stop at the piers. He walks up and down the pier and looks inside the plastic buckets and identifies the fish. He knows the name of all the fish. He wants to go ocean fishing. We inquire about the cost and the equipment. He decides that it will take too much time. An ocean fishing trip is about 4-5 hours. He fishes off the pier a couple of times. He doesn’t have much luck. He never goes on vacation without his fishing equipment.

His daughter takes him on a fishing trip on Lake Michigan. He isn’t feeling to well because of the treatment he is going through. He is living with lung cancer. He never gives up. He catches fish with the help of his daughter and the men on the boat. He is thankful his daughter gave him this opportunity.

We move to Arizona. He goes fishing in Payson, AZ. He finds the perfect spot and keeps it a secret. Chloe and I sit with him.  I read and Chloe sleeps. He gets me a fishing license, so he can catch beyond his limit. I never touch the pole only if the rangers come around. He always catches rainbow trout. He throws it into the ice chest and cleans them as soon as we get home. Sometimes I can’t go with him because I have to work. I can smell the fish as soon as I walk in the door. There he stands proud of his fish. The fish is displayed on the dish surrounded by grated cabbage and a slice of lemon. The fish doesn’t have bones because he has already removed them. He knows how bad I am at removing fish bones.

I can still taste that trout. We froze the trout and ate it for the next month. Fishing was his way of dealing with the problems he was facing. In Michigan it was the pressure of work. In California it was vacation time. In Arizona it was a release from the grueling pain and knowledge he would not live for much longer.  On the day he died there were a dozen trout in the freezer. I would eat two each month. The day I ate the last trout, tears poured down my cheeks. My fisherman was gone. I will never eat fresh caught rainbow trout again.

Why didn’t I learn to fish? Oh, how I miss you, Sumio!

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