The good news is, we caught 41 fish. The Snag? We caught 41 fish. Now we have to clean them, all 41 of them.
The first time I went to the Helena Valley Reservoir, a small lake built to provide the irrigation ditches in the Helena valley with ample water, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The FWP here in Montana stocks that lake with Kokane, fresh water Sockeye salmon to the tune of 20 to 30 thousand fish every year or so. The fish swim around eating and doing fish stuff for 3 years only to return to the dam, the release point, to spawn. Are they wild or are they stocked after 3 three years? I’m not sure. If fish have been in the wild for 3 years doesn’t that make them at least somewhat wild? No matter, there they are and you can snag 35 of them. So we did, or almost. They are fierce fighters and a very large time was had by all. I’ve been back every year since, save one, to snag, snag, snag.
Snagging is a crude and very haphazard way to catch fish. You launch a large, weighted treble hook into the water and jerk, reel, jerk, reel, jerk, you get the picture. It is only sheer dumb luck that your hook jabs a fish with enough purchase that you can haul it in. But when you do, well, it’s a good reason to drive an hour and half to join in the fun.
If you consider the odds of throwing a hook into the water and actually jabbing a moving fish somewhere in the deep it boggles the mind that it can be done. The concentration and number of fish must be staggering. Not to mention the odds of discovering, through trial and error, exactly where they are. Then there are the snags. Those rocks, small tree branches and other obstacles intent on robbing you of your tackle. The whole thing adds up to fantastic fishing fun. I impatiently wait all year for the two month season just to have a crack at it.
J and I make the trip several times in the months of September and October. Most days are slow. We catch a few fish and finally admit “they’re not running today.” But then, and it seems to happen every year, there is one day when the water temperature is just right, the moon is in the right phase, the fall leaves are the right color and the fish fairies are in a good mood. Every cast, or nearly every cast connects. That’s what happened today. I knew it was coming. We had close to ten fish in the first ten minutes. We were haulin’ them in one after the other like politicians gather suckers.
Well, this went on for over two hours. Cast, yank, reel ’em in until our arms were sore and the stringers were so full we could barely lift them. Reluctantly, we figured, it was time to leave. We stuffed the fish into a large cooler like you stuff a sleeping bag into its’ tote bag, stomping and shaking them down to make them fit. We looked at the cooler crammed full of fish and then it hit us. We have to clean, pack and freeze these things. Oh, my aching arms! I wasn’t sure I had it in me. But we made the long drive back and dove right in. Two hours later we had done the deed. It was Miller time.
Another year, another 50 or so fish, all told. Hunting season was coming up in a few days and there would be no time for snagging. Here in Montana, like most places I suppose, there is a good number of people that live their lives in accordance with the seasons. Spring and Summer are for work, Fall is for gathering and putting up food and Winter is for, well, I’m not sure what Winter is for except maybe killing the bugs. Some people like to play in the snow, whatever floats your frozen boat , I say. This is the way, I think, life should be lived. Many of us trudge off to work every day, do what ever it is we do for 8 or so hours, drag ourselves home, eat, watch the tube for a few hours and try to sleep it off only to start over the next day. We do this ALL year. Not many of us have seasonal jobs that allow time to do all this puttin’ up food stuff but we can tune in to the seasons by simply growing things, anything, in a garden or in a pot on the balcony.
Growing things takes time. You plant a seed, watch it germinate and slowly grow into a tomato plant or whatever. You mark the progress of Spring and Summer by observing your little plantlings grow into fruit producing “adults.” Pretty soon you’re noticing the sky, is it sunny? cloudy? You begin to notice how much rain you’re getting or how dry it is. Temperature swings affect your plants and you begin to notice that, too. Your plants mature and begin to bear fruit. Fall is coming and soon it’ll be time to eat fresh tomatoes, munch on fresh green beans, steam broccoli, and enjoy veggie time. Pretty much anyone can do this. It doesn’t take special knowledge, it only take paying attention. Do your plants need water? Are they getting enough light? In short, are you giving them tender, loving care? Turns out, that’s all it takes to get along with those you love, and everyone else, for that matter. Are you paying attention? Are you giving them tender, loving care?
When you grow things you begin to see the world in a different way. You SEE that the world that has been, mostly, created for us by the media and school and governments and corporations is not the real world but a cheap fake. A facsimile of the real thing. It turns out governments, corporations, schools the media etc. are merely fictions, things that only live on paper. They are not real. YOU are real and those plants growing on the windowsill are real. That other stuff is just a world created to distract you from who and what you really are; a being with enormous power and strength. Don’t let the people who populate those fictions lead you to believe otherwise. Those fictions were created by men and women to serve a purpose, to make things manageable. But when those people begin to use them for their own aggrandizement, for their own gain, they become a threat to our well being. We have the power to dismantle those organizations and create ones that do make our lives better. The people that benefit from their existence will kick and scream when you threaten to take away the gravy train, but that’s OK, it’s really your call. They weren’t real anyway. But you are, and to them that’s the snag.