Most men I've fished with demand silence, especially the river fishermen. They're a contemplative lot. But I was taught early on to be chatty with the finned ones. Grandpa spoke to the trout in German. He held the pole under one bent knee as he rowed around his small lake, the golden Dick Knight lure spinning down there, singing.
"Hungry fish? Hungrige Fische? Come get your Dutch lunch."
Out in the saltwater bay, though, he spoke made-up Spanish to the sole/flounder, and his own silly version of French to the dogfish. He taught me how to catch them and clean them, how to kill them quickly, how to avoid a dogfish bite. He taught me one of the best tricks I've ever learned about cleaning fish. Those awkward, flat sole with the bulging eyes -- he nailed them by the head to a beach log, a slit cut at the gill line. A careful, steady pull with a pair of old fishing pliers and that tough skin comes right off. The fish is then filleted right there on the log. The men loved this method. Tools and efficiency. "Look at that!" my Dad would marvel. "No mess! Cleaned & filleted right there on the log." Then he'd make a big bowl of beer batter and we'd fry that fresh fish and eat like royalty.
My fishing partners since have mostly been river men though, and they aren't much for talk. "Stop scaring the fish," they say. I can't help it. "You know you want it fishy, Dutch lunch, liverwurst and salami on sourdough, come and get it."
Shanna got me lost in the woods thinking about fairy tales and as I was thinking about shiny apples and long, thick braids, dark woods, and lost innocence, I ended up on a walk down at the old Fort Vancouver. Maya Lin designed a land bridge connecting the Fort with the river trail honoring Native American culture. A flock of geese landed in the field grass as I headed towards the bridge. Have you ever watched geese land? They spiral down, down like a double helix, like DNA in motion, wings buzzing and humming softly, like a harmonic version of playing cards in a bicycle tire. An ancient maple had fallen and I was compelled to pick up a piece of wood. A tiny piece. I'm looking at it now, marveling at this little bit of history, all bound up in cells, fiber, water, fire. Walking along there, following the curves of the landscape and the bridge and the river, thinking about fairy tales, I realized I'm not much for the traditional fairy tales, in all honesty. What I do love, though, are trickster stories. Coyotes, spiders, jesters and fools. Some of my favorite tricksters are Shakespeare's jesters.
"Trickster gleefully punctures all pretensions of gentility, all attempts to live in the mind and not the flesh; he is a creature of the body, of impulse and desire; he contains all the flaws of humankind writ large — as well as our boundless optimism, picking himself up after each disaster, irrepressible as ever."
"Psychologist Carl Jung viewed Trickster as an expression of the shadow side of a culture, the embodiment of all that is repressed and disowned — the greedy, needy rascal that lives somewhere inside every one of us. In recognition of the
Trickster within, we delight in his outrageous escapades — and then, being ethical creatures too, we also savor Trickster's come–uppance when his tricks have failed, his ego has been deflated, and chaos has been restored to order."
Hungry fish? Hungrige Fische? Listen to my singing lure. Dutch lunch. Come and get it. You know you want some.
Brook Trout & Fiddleheads
- 6 brook trout, cleaned with heads removed (8 in.)