By Russell Leung
It was the late June during the summer of grade six. My cousins and I were out on a fishing trip with our uncle. Lake Erie was our final destination. We left from Mississauga, and headed west. The car ride was quiet. The glare from the passenger mirror reflected just enough light in the pink morning sun that the faint tinge hit my eyes and gave me a sense of serenity. The road at first was bumpy and filled with the loud sounds of the morning city passing by, but as time went on, the pounding of tires on asphalt gradually became the whining on concrete as we journeyed onto country roads. The barley and corn whizzed by, light stalks waving in the wind, entire fields moving at one time.
We had reached our destination. I felt at ease as I heard the sound of concrete give way to the rumbling on dirt under the fresh summer tires we had just put on a few days earlier. I hopped out the back, tightening the strap of my hat, and hopped into the boat that we had towed all this way. My uncle slowly backed the boat in, the clear water reflecting back in my face as I looked into the lake. I stuck the key in the ignition, and the familiar sound of a fourstroke purred to life, churning the water underneath and massaging my hands on the steering wheel as I shifted into reverse and backed the boat off the launch onto a dock. We got on the water fast. The sun was still rising, and the glint of the early morning dew on the rails of the boat sparkled in the sun. We sped off towards our location, with a 400 on the back going seventy miles per hour down a glass lake with little wind. It looked like a good day.
I unhooked my rod from the strap, the slap from the carbon fibre as I launched my bait sent adrenaline through my arms, and into my body. I set my drag, opened the bail, and casted as far as I could into the turquoise water. –Shk-Shk-shk went my rod as I worked the bait repetitively back towards the boat. Reel-pause. Reel-pause. Reel…..gone??! My rod nearly ripped out of my hands. I set the hook, and the fight was on. The screaming of the drag sounded like my sister when I forgot to turn the bathroom fan on. The fish jumped at just the right angle, the scales and water sloshing off reflected into the sun. It was big. What type of fish was it? I didn’t know. Why was it so wide?
“Get the net, get the net, Nathan!”
“What is a net? They don’t have those in Taiwan..”
“The stick with the thing on the end. That thing.”
Sloppily, my cousin reached into Lake Erie and pulled the unknown back up. “I got it! It feels really heavy.” As he brought the net up, I realized that there was nothing inside.
“Nathan… where is the fish!?!”
“I don’t know. I just got weeds.”
I realized then that it was still on my line. To be quite frank, my arms remembered, as the giant nearly dislocated my shoulder. The fight wasn’t done. Not even close. It jumped again, then did a figure eight. How it didn’t come off the hook I still do not know. All I knew was that it was big. My entire body was clenched. There was an indescribable feeling of adrenaline blurring my vision and focusing me on the only task I had set out to do.
“Get the frickin’ thing in the boat!!!”
I wanted to just jump into the shallow flats and pull out the fish. Then, I realized that I was not Aquaman. Maybe some other time. I started to think. Brute force wouldn’t work, so I had to play it with drag. With finesse, I forced the rod away from the boat, bringing the fish in. Bad idea. The thing swam under the boat and nearly pulled my rod in with it. The line rubbed against the laminated carbon fibre like a violin. The worst plinking sound I have ever heard began to reverberate through the rod, and seemingly into my soul. Slowly, the line began to fray, and with it, my chances of landing the Lochness fish dwindled slowly away. I had to act fast. I jumped over the front console, landing at the back of the boat. I reeled, and soon, my hard work paid off. Looking at the bottom of the net was a softshell turtle. All shell broke loose. Michelangelo thrashed and bit for quite a while. Great. Not only did I get soaked, it wasn’t even a fish.
Those “scales” must’ve just been the squares on the shell. No wonder it felt like 50 pounds. It weighed 25, and I happened to hook it in the ridge of the shell. It wasn’t even hooked.
“Well, you still got biggest catch of the day,” said my uncle with a sheepish grin.
“See ya later, Michelangelo. Great fight!” I remarked as I slid the turtle back in, and he began to swim off slowly towards his turtle friends.
The car ride home was somewhat disappointing, albeit the sunset made the smooth country roads fly by as I thought to myself. It wasn’t the best day, but it was one I will always remember. The transition from city life to barren miles of empty lake surprised me, as it always did. I was once again revived and learned that no matter the outcome, it was always good to spend time on the water with family.
And seriously, who knew turtles were so strong?!