The man and the fish


during the walk around the lake this morning the boys saw a fisherman set up on the round point that juts into the water just up from the creek. what’s that? asked Y, pointing to a large bassinet made of tent cloth, next to his fishing tent. don’t know, I said, maybe something for putting fish in. then we saw that he had in fact caught a large fish, it was in the pop-up bassinet. we walked over, it was about 80 cm long. perhaps even one metre. it was still alive, opening and closing its mouth. the man smiled shyly at us, we smiled shyly at him. we drew near. the man loped four meters down to the waters edge, bringing a piece of mesh fabric with a drawstring. got the mesh fabric wet, brought it back up to the bassinet, squeezed some water over the fish. what would happen next? would he kill it?

he spread the mesh sling over the fish, taking care to surround it completely. time had not stopped, but rather swollen. each moment the fish opened its mouth, receiving no air in its body, the seconds elongated. the mesh was around the fish, he carefully pulled the drawstrings, the fish was in the net sling. I knew he would next attach the strings to a hand-held hook scale, the kind my midwife had used to weigh W and X when they were first born, except of course she had used cloth not mesh. the man was slight but wiry, with grey-green eyes. actually I don’t know what colour eyes but they were clear as a lake and small like a fish’s. he didn’t fumble, but he was careful and meticulous, perhaps conscious of his rapt audience of three. time stretched further as he carefully worked the strings. it was a digital scale. I did not see the number exactly. perhaps it was 20. perhaps it was 50. it was a big fish. quite oval-shaped, non-distinct, muscular. it began to thrash after the fisherman lowered the net again. it needed air. it looked ready to somersault over the lip of the bassinet, throwing itself down the hill into the lake. but the bassinet lip was too high. in years past I would have beseeched the fisherman to hurry the fish into the water. but now I wanted to observe rather than judge, I wanted to learn instead of teach. what would he do next?

I worried how it would feel if he clubbed it. I knew the kids would learn a lot as well. the fisherman inexplicably removed the net sling from the fish’s body, walked the four metres down to the water, rinsed the sling, brought it back, drizzled water from it onto the fish in the bassinet. went to the tent. got out his mobile phone. the kids and I discreetly stepped backwards so that he could get a better picture without worrying about our legs in the background.

In my mind I was transported to a week-long canoe trip in the interior of bc. my boyfriend’s friends were sport fishers. one caught a fish, took a very long time photographing it with an expensive SLR camera. I was sobbing hysterically, or at least I was in my mind; begging them to put it back quickly, to stop it from suffering. in my youth I was very emotional. it made for great comedy.

standing over the clean green bassinet, the fisherman took three photos from three angles. now what would he do? the fish’s mouth was still opening and closing. it was still alive. the man, a very young man, a boy in my eyes really, gently took hold of the fish. it thrashed one more time and he released it back into the bassinet. the bassinet had a padded floor. it was the perfect soft camp bed for a fish, except there was no water.  he tried again, carefully, deliberately. he had the fish now. he held it firmly, proudly, gently, one hand supporting and grasping the shoulders and the other holding the tail of the dying fish, like a groom might carry a bride over the threshold. he bent his knees, squatting down at the sun-sparkled water’s edge. would the fish still live? how could it, after all this time? he lowered the fish into the water. the fish lay in the water on its side. not quite belly up, but almost. its strength had evaporated, or rather flooded to that invisible place in its gills. here where the water would finally go in, with its dose of lake air. he stroked the fish, gently, massaging its body reverently. it was a beautiful animal he had caught. now he would let it go.

* * *

we were a little late for school. “tell the teacher you watched a man catch a very large fish, un gros poisson,” I instructed.

my children would tell their fish stories too.




Nadine inhales & exhales words & images from current vantage point in Zone of Emptiness, France. This post was sponsored by the un-vacuumed kitchen floor and the clutter on the countertops. Thank you for reading. ❤︎



9 thoughts on “The man and the fish

  1. It’s funny, I’ve gone through the exact opposite experience. That is, when I was young I didn’t think much of the suffering of animals. But now, I can’t watch the episode of Futurama, “Jurassic Bark,” because Seymour faithfully waits for Fry to come back at the end.

    (damn! whose cutting onions in here?)

    But, at the same time, like you, where every fiber in my is screaming when I see something like the scene you painted, I know that there is more to things than just my knee-jerk reaction. Hell, I eat meat, right? I mean, where does that come from? It’s easy ‘cos I don’t see it. And, so, rather than be judgmental, I try to be quiet and try to see what I need to see. Hopefully, there’ll be a story somewhere in there, too.


    1. haha about the onions (and also not haha — so what made the change happen, I wonder?)

      “But, at the same time, like you, where every fiber in my is screaming when I see something like the scene you painted, I know that there is more to things than just my knee-jerk reaction.” That’s it, and it’s taking me a long time to learn. I went vegetarian starting at age 16, trying to reduce hypocrisy, lasted for 20 years (till we moved to France). Now I do eat meat (mainly fish) occasionally. At first because it seemed more friendly to do so (we live in the deep countryside. Many make their living off farming, here. Vegetarianism is equated with radicalism and religion. I don’t think it’s like that in Paris and other cities). But later, out of simple desire to enjoy all types of foods (which is the hard thing to win out over psychologically).

      I thought though, that if I’m really going to eat fish (I love eating fish!) I should probably be able to catch and kill one too (that’s how I ultimately became veg all those years ago). Have not done it yet… also considering that returning to total vegetarianism might be easier. Not only for me but for the fish.


  2. What a great picture you painted Nadine. I’m the same. Caught a few fish with my Grandad when I was a boy and it feels so alien to just leave them there gasping for breath whilst the fisherman calmly gets on. Great lesson for your kids too! I think it’s always a pleasure to watch someone do something well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Matthew! Means a lot to me and I am always grateful for your comments.

      I feel like the fisherman could have kept the fish nearer to the water, maybe in one of those big ringed nets some keep right *in* the water… I worried that even if the fish lived (yes it did slowly swim away, finally, but who knows how well it did later) it might have suffered brain damage (not to mention extreme fear and suffering) due to lack of oxygen. This is what the kids and I talked about on the rest of our walk, afterwards.

      I wrote this story as a quick exercise after getting home and didn’t know whether to put that in or not, but chose to allow the reader to end it for themselves. You know how it is… decisions, decisions. ;)) Thanks again, writing friend.


  3. Wow. well told. brought back the time I caught my first really big fish a Marlin, weighed in at over 100 pounds. It took me about a half hour to land it. It had danced on the top of the water on its tail. It was worn out when we got it to the boat, pulled it up photographed it and put it back in the water. It took awhile, a crew member rubbed it then turned it so that its head faced the stern, held its gills a way from its body and the captian gunned the boat gently forward. They were forcing water through its gills. It soon recovered and took off. What a day. over thirty years ago. Thanks for your story. Dr. Bob

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow! I love *your* story Dr. Bob! Thank you so much for this. Beautiful… I love hearing all the “angles” so to speak. The more stories the better. Amazing… lovely.


  4. El.

    Oh that was actually difficult to read but in the best possible way – the slow pace and level of details and the comparison to weighting babies made me so root for the fish knowing quite well how ridiculous that is as I love eating fish. You conjured a very visceral exposure experience for me. Poor fish though 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Journaling June: The More I Stay the Same, The More I Change – Aeryk Pierson [dotme]

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