* The 6th installment in a series of sections from my Masters thesis, which was (in large part) about fishing.
Villager Restaurant. 5:30 a.m.
Laminated breakfast menus. Short lived eggs, toast, sausage—coffee-to-go, toothpicks by the register.
We head to the bait shop for sawbellies, a wriggling handful of bump & tick in our aluminum bait bucket. Slight lapping of water against marina-moored boats, footsteps echo quietly on the dock.
Wind & engine, water & shoreline, we nose a white V out onto Canandaigua Lake. Bare Hill a hunched silhouette above black trees under the dawn sky.
5, 10, 15 minutes. The boat slows to an idle, settling into the dark water toward the south end. Ears ringing from sudden silence. I stir my hand into the flipping mass of minnows, lift a chubby sawbelly, its head in my palm, tail wagging from between my thumb & forefinger, mouth gaping a small o. My tackle box holds a snelled double hook & black bait-threading needle.
I cast my line.
Bait & bobber end-over-end then plop onto the surface.
We sit quietly, sipping our coffee. The sawbelly swims random circles three feet below a barely tipping bobber. Shore is now slightly visible. Trees, rocks, cottages through mist clinging to the water’s surface. A loon’s cry drifts across the lake. Another answers, closer.
The bobber disappears for a moment, then follows the bait & fish, trickling, bouncing the surface for thirty yards, forty, fifty, then stops. I wait. The fish flexes its jaw, exhales the stunned bait for a moment, circles to swallow it head first. The idle bobber springs to life again.
The line sings its tense song. Sunrise has cleared Bare Hill.
I reel. Dad waits with net in hand.