Onwards we went.
We did not know then, that it was also to be upwards.
After all we just went fishing. And that normally happens in the water. But that, later.
Dad finally agreed to come fishing with me.
I am nine years old and the highlight of my summer holidays at Lake Balaton, the Hungarian Sea, is fishing.
They say that the fish from Balaton are much better than from the Danube; kind of ‘noble’ fish, because the water is silky and volcanic minerals abound in the lake. I mean that ‘they’ say, because I would not know, as I never tasted fish either from the Danube or Balaton. I do not like the taste of any fish, hence I never eat it. But this does not stop me from loving fishing. Whatever I catch, I take home to appreciative family members, particularly my sister, who adores fish.
I enjoy both fishing at the bottom of the lake and using a floater. They are different experiences. Fishing at the bottom requires tightening the line and letting it rest on my fingertip, so that I instantly feel if there is a nibble. On the other hand, if the floater bobs up and down, hooking the fish can be more difficult.
I wait for the floater being completely pulled underwater by the fish and then jerk immediately. If I jerk when the floater already starts to come up, I will have missed the fish.
I am explaining all this to Dad as we walk towards a suitable fishing spot. We find one. The water bank is on one side of the footpath, the other side is lined with shady poplar trees.
“An ideal spot” says Dad. We stop and I put the bait on the hook.
Well, it took quite a few tries to have Dad come fishing with me for first time now. I do not yet know that this will also be the last time. On every occasion before now, Dad found an excuse to get out of coming. ‘Oh, my back is aching’ or ‘the knee’, or he was tired or busy.
But by now he ran out of excuses, so he valiantly bit the bullet.
I enjoy being with him.
Mostly doing things together is on his terms, like when we go to the theatre on free tickets because he is the doctor on duty. But this time, he is on my turf and I am ‘the expert’.
I show him how to swing the rod and how to let the line run as he casts.
I hand him the rod.
And this is when the disaster strikes.
As he swings the rod back to give it momentum for casting out in the opposite direction to the water, he prematurely lets the line run, so the hook, line and sinker end up on the top of the poplar tree behind us. They get stuck so high up, that with the sun above us we can barely see where they landed. With a snagged hook at the bottom of the lake, I developed the skill to gently ease the hook out to retrieve it, so I attempt to do the same with the hook high up.
But the more I try, the more the line gets tangled up with the branches.
I give up and hand the rod to Dad to see if he can utiliae his surgical finesse to save our one and only hook and sinker.
He sets out with dedication to pull the line from every angle; the branches shaking as if we were trying to harvest fruit from the tree. A passer-by joins in to kibitz.
After a while, when the kibitzer is moving on, he announces with a poker face: “Good luck with catching a bird!”
Dad and I look at each other and burst out laughing.
It does not matter that Dad is 45 years my senior; we are now just a couple of kids laughing without a care. We continue chuckling on the way home, trying to imagine how we’ll break the news to the family; that we caught neither fish nor bird.
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