I went fishing with my older Boy today (8) and caught a northern pike. And hot diggity were we thrilled about that...but let me back up.
I remember walking through the woods with my Grandfather as a child. With the Swisher Sweet cigar in his hand, the passing smell of which now conjures vivid and warm memories, he'd show me wild woodland plants I could eat and that seemed to me just about the coolest thing ever. Wintergreen. Sassafras leaves. Fern fiddlheads. Berries. Wild mushrooms. We'd walk out to the marshy land behind his sinking house, the one his own father built on an island along the Grand River, and we'd go fishing. Pull worms from a rusting can and cast them into the river. Swisher Sweet smell through the willows and cat tails and the metallic call of the redwing blackbird.
I remember imagining when I was with him that we could, in fact, survive off the land. The fish. The plants. The squirrels. In my child mind I'd become a nomad. I could escape into the deep woods and live off wintergreen and sassafras leaves.
That notion of eating locally was planted into my head early, but I never really took it seriously. A childhood imagination. I never took it seriously as a notion until recently. Sure, sure...I'd been dabbling in my organic garden. I buy stuff from the local farmers market. I liked the Eating Local idea, but I wasn't really prepared to go out of my way for it until, for whatever reason, that Havard Red Meat study came out.
Red Meat Consumption Linked to Increased Risk of Total, Cardiovascular, and Cancer Mortality
One daily serving of unprocessed red meat (about the size of a deck of cards) was associated with a 13% increased risk of mortality, and one daily serving of processed red meat (one hot dog or two slices of bacon) was associated with a 20% increased risk.
We all knew that, of course. I mean...it's no huge revelation that red meat is horrible for you. I just wasn't prepared for exactly how enormously, unquestionably horrible it is for you. I used to imagine it was just sort of slightly bad...or maybe a gray area. No. Absolutely not. No gray area. It's just bad.
And I'm aware that from an Eating Local perspective one could buy local beef. Even lower fat grass fed beef.
But the call of the stuff I had learned from my grandfather came back to me. Walking through the woods, reaching out and grabbing something to nibble on. Catching fish by the shore.
Recently the Boys and I decided we're going to spend the summer learning to fish.
I've always enjoyed fishing. But save for a couple excursions out on the Big Lake with some family friends to catch rainbow trout or salmon, my fishing experience rarely went much beyond bluegill and sunfish.
And bluegill is fun. Don't get me wrong. They're plentiful, easy to find, and fun to catch, and I like the way they taste. But I always felt like less than a real fisherman being somebody who only fished for bluegill.
So the older boy and I recently ventured into fishing with spinners. We read up on 'em. We experimented with them on the lake for a while. We went fishing over the weekend, and then went today. Today we went down to the lake, the boy with his red and white spoon and I with my brass colored French spinner....and holy smokes.....I caught a northern pike. It was a pretty awesome day. We jumped around and cheered. We compared notes about our various fishing techniques and the lures we were using. I think we're getting the boy a similar spinner but of larger size next time.
It feels like I've come back to something, today. Between the garden where my boys have their own spaces for gardening, and the fishing, I feel like I'm returning to something simpler and basic. Something closer to home, in my memories of my grandfather and in my food. A continuum that I hope to hand off to my small boys.
Anyway...we still have much to learn about fishing. So if you happen to have some sage fishing advice, I'm all ears.