fish tales from the towpath

By Susan B. Price, originally published in "The Canal Times" in 2007

Hemingway at Perinton Park

My husband Jim finally decides he'll go fishing with me, so we drive over to Perinton Park along the Erie Canal. The night is breezy and mellow. A band plays jazz-pop-blues for the canoe paddlers, bicyclers, and dog-walkers. We are the only fishers.  I set up. Jim is less impressed with the organization of my tackle than with the comfortable canvas folding chairs I have in my trunk. He sinks into one, pours wine into our cups and stretches out his legs.

As if I were his charter captain, he watches me fix up two poles with fish-finder rigs, applying the lessons I learned this summer from Malone – lots of lead and lively nightcrawlers, rods nestled in among the rocks at a slight angle to the current, lines tight.

"You really like this, don't you?,” he says “I would never have predicted it.”

A 10-year-old comes over to sit with us and puts his face near the end of the rod to help me decide if I have a bite.

Suddenly the tip on one of the rods starts vibrating. I jump up and reel in a good-size sunfish.

Jim frowns. "That was awfully subtle," he says. "I'm used to the fish hitting – bam! – and the reel singing eeeeeeeeeeooooooooooowwwwwwww – the fish running with it." He is suddenly Hemingway, reflecting on long-ago Caribbean glory, complaining that the tarpon aren't biting. He glares at the second rod. "My pole isn't doing a damn thing. Check to see if the bait’s still on it."

I try to impress this Hemingway with my release skills, but my sunfish has swallowed the hook and I wind up ripping it out. When I toss the little darling back, my hand is covered with blood.

"Is that yours or its?" Jim asks.


He watches me step over the rocks to the water's edge, squat down and rinse my hands.

"That's what happens," he says, " when you hunt down living things." He pours the last drops of wine into our glasses. "You better check my bait."

Sure enough, the worm has been stripped from his hook. Jim hands me the carton and I wrestle another one into place. We catch a couple more fish and watch the sun set.


Drop me a line!