August: Fishing with Hemingway -- Stalking Sunfish

Babes In Boyland, a Mad In Pursuit Diary


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Sunday night in the parkJim decided he'd go fishing with me. Unlike Malone, he did not require a 12-pack of Labatt's. A thermos of chilled white merlot would do nicely. 

After dinner we drove to Perinton Park along the Erie Canal. Jim hasn't fished with me since we went to Black Lake last fall. He was less impressed with the organization of my tackle than with the comfortable canvas folding chairs I had in my trunk. He sank into one, poured wine into our cups and stretched out his legs.

It was a perfect summer night, the kind that makes up for months of snow: breezy and mellow. Behind us, at a comfortable distance, tents were set up for some sort of festival and a live band with a decent sax played jazz-pop-blues. Upstream at the dock, someone was renting canoes and the canal was busy with paddlers. Bikers shared the towpath with dog walkers and baby strollers.

We were the only fisherpeople. I use "we" like a charter boat captain might say "we" as he sets everything up for his guests. Jim settled into his groove while I fixed up two poles with fish-finder rigs, applying all the lessons I learned from Malone last week -- lots of lead and lively nightcrawlers, rods nestled in among the rocks at a slight angle to the current, lines tight. Jim observed.

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

A boy about 10 came over to sit with us and he put his face near the end of the rod to help me decide if I had a bite.

Suddenly the tip on one of the rods started vibrating. I jumped up and reeled in a good-size sunfish.

"That was awfully subtle," Jim said. "I'm used to the fish hitting -- bam! -- and the reel singing eeeeeeeeeeooooooooooowwwwwwww -- the fish running with it." He was suddenly Hemingway and complaining that the tarpon weren't biting. He glared at the second rod. "My pole isn't doing a damn thing. Check to see if the bait's still on it."

Meanwhile I was trying to impress this Hemingway with my release skills, but my sunfish had swallowed the damn hook and I wound up ripping it out. When I threw her back, my hand was covered with blood.

"Is that yours or its?" Jim asked.


He watched me step over the rocks to the water's edge, lean over and rinse my hands.

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

Sure enough, the worm had been stripped from his hook. Jim handed me the carton and I jammed another one into place. We caught a couple more fish and watched the sun set.


New York Canal System