Photo : Hannah McIntyre …localism.com
Tonight I ditched the suburbs and drove to Mission, British Columbia.
There the valley spreads out from the edge of town. Mountains lace the sky from behind.
It’s picture perfect.
If only Mission’s Sun Valley Trout Park was the same.
Not that the place is ugly. On the contrary, I saw families of ducks gliding across the ponds that surround the trailer park and camp spots. Lush foliage edged the grounds and pathways.
Most importantly, my sister and brother-in-law live on the grounds. How could any place be less than beautiful with their presence?
Frankly, it’s the catch-and-release fishing policy that I find disturbing.
Maybe you disagree with me.
“What about preserving the fish population?” you may murmur politely.
Maybe, I don’t respond.
Perhaps, your face turns red.
“What about Mrs. Fish and the junior fishes back at the duck weed patch,” you finally scream in defense of catch-and-release, “Must they wait and wait for the 8 to 10 pound daddy that will never glide his way back home?”
Take a deep breath.
And let me take you on a little journey. Forty years back in time and miles away to the Ozark foothills.
I was a scrawny kid who
- Rode an hour to school every day on the bus.
- Walked almost thirty minutes to a tiny store that sold chips, pop, milk and butter.
- Had no money.
- Wore hand-me-down shirts, jeans and cotton dresses.
- Depended on school vouchers for Christmas presents.
No freezer full of meat. No larder full of can goods.
All we had were the basics.
- Salt and Pepper.
- Flour and cornmeal.
- Milk and eggs.
- Carrots and Potatoes.
And fresh fish.
While Dad was down in Texas trying to find work, Mom baited a hook on a string with worms from the corner store. Tied it to a stick. Attached a red and white bobber the size of a ping pong ball.
Dropped it in one the the streams that wound it’s way down to Lake Tenkiller.
Reward – fillet of bass dipped in egg and rolled in cornmeal. Pan fried to a crispy golden brown.
This was a savory rendition of the circle of life.
It was a way to survive.
A fish- and-release policy would have left us hungry most nights.
“Renee,” I reminded myself when I pulled into the park, “The fishing ponds are for family fun, not for some scrawny kid’s survival.”
I relaxed. A little.
But, deep down I knew that nothing was more thrilling than catching a fish in order to survive. Nothing tastes as sweet.