Monday, August 3, 2009

Like a fish out of water

Everytime I come home from a respite in the U.S., friends interrogate me about my newly acquired tan. "I went fishing," I say, eliciting raised eyebrows from my listeners, who conjure images of white fishing boats and nautical wear. "No," I correct them. "It's not as glamorous as you think."

My trips to Florida, where my brother Jig resides, are like a ritual. As soon as I've settled into his family's quaint bungalow, we proceed to plan our fishing excursions, untangling the nets, monitoring the tides, bringing out the sunblock. But our adventures are modest in scale. At dawn, we park Jig's van by some body of water, mostly parts of Tampa Bay, carry our gear through the sand, and immerse ourselves chest-deep into the warm pool.

What ensues is a progression of activities that resemble a spiritual dance. We tread stealthily through the water, careful not to create too many ripples that warn the fish of our approach; and where we sense a stirring beneath the water surface, we hurl our nets in the hopes of catching bait. After several attempts and now with pinfish in our buckets, we reach for the rods and hook the tiny helpless fish, then gracefully cast our lines to the whirring of the reels. Plop. We then wait in near silence as the first glow of sunlight greets us. At that moment and in that setting, it is so easy to feel total communion with the world.

When nothing nips, we repeat the process, and I am reminded of a mantra uttered in perfect cadence. Occasionally, a laughing gull or a tern would skim the water for food, or a dolphin would emerge briefly at a distance. Otherwise, everything remains still...until something bites, and a small struggle between angler and fish ensues. The pace picks up as we tug and reel in with our rods, our forearms flexing with the weight of the catch.

On this last fishing trip, it was Jig who was the successful angler, luring in a 50-lb black drum and a couple of decently-sized mullets. I nonetheless get to pose with the day's prize to immortalize the experience.

Fishing is not necessarily my sport of choice, but I cannot imagine a trip to Jig's without going through the motions. Without the experience, I would be a fish out of water or a step out of synch. Forget that we did not get to eat the black drum (Jig, who is a chef, filleted it and discovered parasites; but at least he got to smoke the mullets for dinner). What is important is that during those episodes in the glistening waters of Tampa Bay, not only am I one with nature; I am also in perfect consonance with a brother I see just once in three years.

This isn't how Jig and I go fishing in Florida.

The angler struggles with the weight of his catch.

Chef at work. But the black drum is no good.

Instead, the mullets are prepped for smoking.

The final product: a smoked fish dip for crackers and crudite.


Rica said...

I love this heartfelt essay of yours. Because it is an essay and not just a blog.

Leilah said...

Naiimagine ko kayo while reading. Perfect. Ganda ganda, Norman. I read it twice! Thanks for sharing. :-) Love the pic! Pang-primary pic sa profile hehe.

Selene Aurea said...

This is the epitome of my childhood spent with Uncle Jig...more or less! I couldn't help but smile as I read this because in place of you, I remember my moments with him in the wee cold mornings at the Pacifica pier. It was nice to see the pics to go with your story, but the best part?...I got to hear it live from you :-)

monique said...

How i wish i was there!!!!1 There is nothing like fishing with Jig :-)