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WriteOut of Her Mind

by Kelly Waterhouse

Catch and release

Sometimes you have to believe in spirits. You just do. Especially when your mother assures you that a spirit will help you catch fish.

That was the lesson my teenage son learned on our vacation in the Kawarthas.

I conjured up a ghost from summers past. I knew that spirit would answer my call.

It was early morning. My son and I were standing at the edge of a dock looking down into the deep, brown water thick with weeds, watching as minnows would flit and scatter between the shadows. The wind was blowing steady across the water and you couldn’t help but smell autumn in the air. Change was coming.

Hold on. Let go.

My son had a tackle box and fishing rod. I had a book and a mug of coffee. We were both starting the day off right.

While I read Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, I could hear the click and hiss of the fishing line with each cast my son made and the slow winding of the toggle as he retrieved his line, void of fish.

Patient, as all good fishermen are, he set the bait, cast again. I read another chapter. But as the worms diminished and lures proved unsuccessful, my son expressed the sentiment that perhaps today the fish just weren’t biting.

Maybe it was the sight of my son, standing tall with his head bent over the end of the fishing rod, tying on a lure. He’s part boy, part man, all heart. It felt familiar. Nostalgic.

It brought back sweet memories of lazy days riverside, tagging along with my boy pals while they fished and swore and fished some more.

In the summer of 1987, the song Sweet Child O’ Mine was all over the airwaves. My high school friend Tim was a big Guns N’ Roses fan and an avid fisherman. He taught me how to cast, how to set bait, and the importance of catch and release. Reel it in and let it go.

Fishing was his happy place. While he fished, he would sing that song and do an awkward impression of Guns N’ Roses front man Axl Rose. The more Tim sang it, the more fish he caught. It became a superstitious tradition. Now it was my turn to pass it on.

I closed my book (Springsteen couldn’t help here) and shared this fishing tale with my son. I told him how Tim was a wild child, a brave heart, the best goofball I knew.

Tragically, we lost Tim in an accident the summer I turned 19. He wasn’t much older. That’s when I realized there was no guarantee of forever; there were only moments.

Hold on and let go. Catch and release.

I stood at the edge of the dock and started singing, and when I got to the chorus of Sweet Child O’ Mine I was all in. My son laughed as I performed a stellar Axl Rose impersonation without any inhibition, swaying side to side like a hard rock guy who couldn’t dance.

The fish were going to hear me sing. The spirits would too.

Then I headed back to the cottage and my son kept fishing. He snagged 15 small fish in about an hour. He will never forget that moment. Neither will I.

Hold on. Let go. 

Catch and release.



Vol 50 Issue 35


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