“Gone Fishing” is a quaint way to let folks know you’re not at work, and you are in fact currently engaged in a classic non-work type of activity, possibly just sitting somewhere with a hat shading your eyes and a fishing pole dipped in the water. Maybe you’ll catch something, maybe you won’t, because who cares, you’re not at work.
There are some Ideas of GONE FISHING; solitude and peace, or the willful non-productiveness of it all, out on a boat somewhere sipping a beer, not really concerned with what you catch, or the one that really seems to be iconic, standing alone in a cold-running mountain stream carefully flitting a custom-tied fly along the top of the water, patiently angling for that big trout. Patience is so important in fishing, when you are GONE FISHING. Not for me, though.
When I was a kid I would spend a couple of weeks in the summer on Prince Edward Island, where one of the main industries was fishing and trapping and gathering all kinds of shellfish. My grandfather, who fished for a living, discovered a primo spot to drop lobster traps and catch giant bluefin tuna and it was eventually named MacLeod’s Ledge.
PEI mussels still show up on menus. My aunt Edie would send me home with cans and cans of lobster and crabmeat packed on the island. I had one uncle, Roy, who ran a commercial fishing port, and another uncle, Reg, who worked for the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans. I remember hearing stories about how poachers sank some Fisheries boats so they could get out on the water with nobody checking up on them.
My uncle Reg took me fishing once, down where they’d bring in the big tuna. We went down one morning to fish off the dock. There was a Japanese guy there who spent most of his day smoking cigarettes and fishing, and when a boat came in with a big bluefin, he’d take out a penknife, have a taste of a bit of flesh off the monstrous 900-lb. or so tuna as it was being gutted, and then he’d make an offer for the dressed fish which was then packed in a big styrofoam coffin and taken to the airport bound for Kennedy in New York, eventual destination Japan.
We were going to fish off the dock for whatever we could catch, which was mostly smelts, which were attracted to the spot because of all the fish guts getting dumped in the water from the commercial activity. The dock was a target-rich environment, great for a kid who had never fished before. I’m pretty sure at one point I was just dropping a hook in the water without bait, that’s how crazy the mini-feeding frenzy action in the chummed water was. We had a big empty plastic salt bag we found on the dock, and we filled the bag up in a few hours and brought the catch home to my aunt for cleaning and freezing. Smelts are cinchy to catch, and even sort of the easiest fish to eat, you can just fry ’em up and never worry about finding a bone because you can just eat those right along with the tasty fish.
Fishing for smelt became my platonic ideal of Fishing; go someplace, drop a line in the water, pull out a fish, repeat it dozens of times, and end up with a whole bunch of fish to eat. Fishing and PATIENCE were never formatively connected in my brain.
As Hmm Daily’s portion of Summertime spools out, we’ll hang out the GONE FISHING shingle on Fridays. We probably won’t be gone fishing, but we’ll be back Monday, until we’re gone.