Last night was my first experience fishing. I tagged along with my husband and son, prepared to be an observer and mainly to document the event in photos, but I never expected to have a genuinely enjoyable experience doing it.
When I think of fishing, I think of green, swampy water and not so pleasant smells, old men wearing netted vests, filling their pockets with lures and hooks and other strange devices that serve various outdoorsy purposes I don't understand.
But last night, at at family fishing event put on by Nebraska Game and Parks, I came away with a different perspective on fishing. The joy and excitement that filled my son when he caught his first fish was contagious. One of the volunteers, Jake, stayed with us most of the night and showed Logan how to hook the worm and cast his fishing line. And when my son caught the little bluegill, Jake showed him how to smooth the fins down so my son could hold the fish without poking his fingers.
We marveled at the iridescent skin of the fish and watched his sparkling gills open and close as he adapted to being out of the fresh water. And when it was time to send him back to be with the other fish, Logan and I sent him off with little wishes to swim joyfully and live his fish life to the fullest.
My husband offered me his fishing pole so I could try it too, and it was exciting to feel the pull of the fish as they nibbled the worm on the hook. Within a few minutes, I'd caught my first fish too and declared, "I want to hold him!," similar to the childlike wonder in my son's voice earlier that night. We crowded around the bluegill, moved our fingers across his thin, smooth body and then I let my son throw him back in. "Live your lives!" he shouted joyfully as he sent him off.
The sound of the water moving in soft waves before us, the sun setting against our backs, the excitement of having shared this experience together . . . I'm not gonna lie, it felt pretty damn magical. My husband didn't catch any fish, but his own excitement had more to do with watching our wonder and giddiness (he would later comment how impressed he was that I put my own worm on the hook after minimal hesitation) and recalling his own childhood memories of fishing with his father and uncle and even being mesmerized by the smell of the water and how it felt to hold the fishing rod after all these years.
I'm still on the fence about the experience for the fish. Part of me justifies it, telling my mother later that night, "It's a second chance at life for them, a wake-up call to stop swimming around mindlessly and go after their underwater dreams." My mother, the eternal pacifist said, "What about the worm?"