Dogmatic Fruit, a Fishing Tale
Not a week prior, our success on a particular lake had produced numbers caught well-above the thirties. It had been one of our most fruitful trips of catching and releasing trout and we were eager to recreate its results.
When we had last visited, the lake had been busy with a few boats, but its size made it so that you felt alone on the water. There had been no campers visiting due to public health order restrictions at the time, and the weather had cooperated beyond our expectations.
This return trip would not yield so much but one thing: a banana has no place in a fishing boat, near any fishing gear, or in the possession of anyone intent on fishing.
But I digress, and I will get back to this later.
Our return trip involved trying to find parking for our boat trailer and car as camping restrictions had lifted and quarantined families had all flocked to all major campsites in hopes to regain a sense of normal for their summer vacations. The cacophony of sound while we loaded our boat, was enough to leave. I counted more than forty boats on the lake already and my heart sank when a speed boat ripped through the calm waters.
This was not going to be the quiet fishing day either of us had expected, but Dad and I both quickly committed to getting on the water in hopes that the number of fish to catch would outweigh our ‘ambiance’.
Two hours later, and not a single fish nibble or bite, I turned to Dad: “You want a snack?”
I rifled through my large bag of treats and pulled out some little mini chocolate bars and opened a bottle of water.
“Can’t believe it, not a single fish, YET… and I’ve changed my flies every ten minutes,” Dad lamented over the noise of a passing boat with a couple that were talking so loudly you could overhear them from the other side of the busy lake.
I sighed deeply, “we’ll catch, I know it…” my voice trailed off while Dad continued to grumble.
“You know I feel bad,” Dad started, “I know you’ve bought that new rod with the sinking line but I passed by your old pink rod in the hallway when I was leaving this morning saying goodbye to it, and wondering if we should have packed her for good luck,” he chuckled, but I knew he was serious.
I’ve learned over the years that anglers often subscribe to their own types of dogmas and beliefs as they journey through their fishing adventures. Pinky, had been the first fishing rod I had started fishing with when Dad and I started back fly fishing. Despite its amazon.ca price and calibre, this rod had caught some of my biggest stillwater trout, and was a lucky talisman of sorts. I was beginning to the believe that leaving pinky behind really might have screwed up our luck.
“Well, why didn’t you pack her anyways, dude?” I whined, looking around for more snacks.
“Because I didn’t think we’d need her, but now we’re headed into the fourth hour of not catching a damn thing; not even a nibble, on the loudest, busiest lake I think we’ve ever fished…” Dad’s words competed over the yelling of nearby campers in a campsite by the lake’s edge.
“We’re having such bad luck here so far, I gotta ask, you have a banana in there? You know they’re bad luck, right?” Dad said factually without thinking I’d actually have one.
But there, in the clear Ziploc bag in the boat, it revealed itself and I couldn’t help but bring it out and place it in view of its captain.
“NO F*#king way! You DO have a banana! Get rid of it, throw it overboard, or I’ll take you back to shore to get rid of it. No wonder we’re not catching anything, and now it won’t matter- we’re CURSED.” Dad’s words spun a tale so fast, he had convinced himself in less than twenty seconds that our trip was a bust and that no matter what we did, we would not catch fish today.
Who knew bananas were bad luck on a boat? Had I missed a memo? For someone who is attentive to details about fishing, I prided myself on having done a lot of research and learning while also tending to the pastime of fishing in boats. How did this fruit elude my knowledge?
“First Pinky, now this banana…” Dad continued, stopping the boat to change over his fly on the line once more. The sun’s rays continued to intensify at the same rate as dad’s dislike for our entire fishing situation.
I sat quietly wondering if it was the expectation of catching that was really at play here. No one likes to be skunked all day, and yes, there is the saying that a day fishing and not catching is still better than a day not fishing at all…but clearly, the climate in the boat told me that we were above reproach on the matter and the yellow, tasty snack nemesis was to blame for all of our troubles.
Refusing to toss the banana to the lake, I sat and ate it, to my dad’s horror.
“Since when, did we get so worried about catching a shit-ton of fish?” I asked mid- chew and frankly, while still holding the yellow-tinted talisman.
“Since we caught more than thirty here last time,” Dad threw the frankness back.
I had missed out on the addition of this new dogmatic order, where counting numbers had become a new tenet of our beliefs in the boat.
I sat quietly internalizing what was already a long day before we returned to shore.
I wondered: Since when did we become so competitive in our catching and returns of fish? Had the simplicity of getting out on the water waned? Or evolved to a new level of expectation to always catch fish?
In the matters of fishing for relaxation and rest, had we become too extreme?
Weeks later, Dad and I found ourselves amidst a lake all to our own and while setting up the boat, the topic of bananagate: 2020, re-emerged:
“I didn’t pack a banana today,” I started, Dad fiddled impatiently with setting the motor on the back of the boat.
“No, glad you learned that one,” Dad assured us both but stopped, his legs mid-calf in the lake, “but you know, they say that even talking about the thing, warrants some guys to not be allowed on the boat from the beginning…” his voice trailing off, as he turned back to tend to the motor.
“What do you mean?” I bit, the rabbit hole of dogma returned swiftly waiting on the old man wisdom.
Dad stood up from his crouched position again, now holding half the motor’s handle while trying to explain the significance.
“I’m saying that even if a guy showed up at the beginning of a fishing day and told his charter, Hey guys, I didn’t pack a banana!; even the mere MENTION of said banana might be enough to not let him on for a day of fishing.” Dad set the handle of the motor then turned to his next task almost nearing time for us to embark on our own day of fishing.
“You ready to roll out?” Dad asked, almost impatiently.
“Yeah, new leader on the line, going to try out a new fly today and see who comes calling,” I confidently beamed.
Our boat set out to the darker waters of the lake and with it, more questions.
“Hypothetically speaking, what if I didn’t tell you I had a banana with me but had one, and we still caught fish,” our voices trailing off from the shore while the sounds of our wooden boat gliding peacefully through the fresh layers of marle cleaved with the knocking of moving our items around to get comfortable and into position for a day’s worth of fishing.
Coots, ruddy ducks, and other lake fowl and their babies called out to one another.
The cacophony of our conversation and theirs became the collective of voices that convened on the lake.
Dr. Katherine Mulski wishes to acknowledge that she has had the privilege to live, work, and fly-fish on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the Musqueam (xʷəәθkwəәy̓əәm), Semiahmoo (Semyome), Squamish (Skwxwú7mesh), Stó:lō, and Tseil-Waututh (Səәl̓ílwəәtaɬ) First Nations. She fly-fishes as many lakes as she can with her Dad and Bulldog Trout Associate, Nora. You can follow along on her literary and line casting journey on Instagram @kathonthefly