Ramble: Faith and Fish

I don’t really enjoy fishing. I want to; the sport appeals in so many ways. It is portrayed as relaxing, the setting can be beautiful, catching something would be both exciting and rewarding, and then you get to eat fish. I really like fish.

The first time I went fishing I baited a hook, dropped a hand-line over the side of a dock on Dunk Island (Far North Queensland) and caught a jewfish. Took about five minutes. I had just spread eagled myself on a towel, angled toward the sun, and closed my eyes, ready to experience the joy of fishing, when the line tugged against my wrist and I had to roll over, scramble to the end of the dock and pull in the fish. The boat ride to the island had been more relaxing.

We were camping at the time, on a backpack tour of FNQ, which meant our only cooking implement was a billy that lost its shine the second day out. Much to our delight. So, I stuck a stick down the poor fish’s throat and propped it over the fire. No, I didn’t scale it, clean it or gut it. I was twenty and high on the fact I’d caught my first fish. After it cooked, we peeled away the skin and ate the flesh away from the skeleton. Was pretty good! (I don’t remember choking on any bones and I’m still here, right?)

Buoyed by my success, we went on a deep sea fishing cruise the next day, which involved getting up before dawn, shambling to the larger dock and boarding a smelly boat. Assisted by professional fisherman, we both did pretty well with our borrowed rods.

They didn’t laugh at our hand-lines, we were backpackers. They were used to the type.

Next day, Boyfriend had to buy a rod which we then had to cart from one end of Queensland to the other.

I didn’t fish again until after I married. Husband took daughter and I out in a little rowboat and we all baited shiny new hooks and cast shiny new lines over the side. After an hour in a boat with a six year old (who never stops talking, ever) I asked to be rowed to shore and took her on a hike around half the lake. We met Husband back at the dock an hour or so later. We’d caught a frog. He had an empty bucket.

Maybe when I’m older, slower and not accompanied by a chatty child I’ll try fishing again. I will choose a beautiful setting and I will capture that peace. In the meantime, there are movies about fish and fishing.

The only reason to watch Moby Dick is Sir Patrick Stewart—and we’ll leave that one right there.

Someone once suggested I watch A River Runs Through It. I tried and nearly died of boredom—no, I’m not exaggerating. Had I been locked in a room with that movie, I’d have been comatose by the time they found me. I understand I am the only person on the planet with that opinion. That’s all right. I don’t mind being different.

Last night I watched Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. I loved every minute of this movie. The story, the characters, the cinematography. The entire experience was very satisfying. The title of this ramble is taken from the film and is a delightful concept, the explanation of which reminded me why I want, so much, to like fishing.  Briefly, the story of the film is as follows:  A Yemeni Sheik’s passion for salmon fishing inspires a project. He wants to import salmon to the Yemen and hires a consultant to organize the project. She in turn approaches a fisheries expert. He says it can’t be done. Through a series of circumstances, the project becomes a reality. It evolves from something theoretically possible into actuality.

The film is engaging on many levels. The success of the venture isn’t so much in establishing salmon in the Yemen, it’s more about the relationships formed through the combined effort. The effort, itself. The sheik, played by the wonderful Amr Waked, is a visionary. He hopes his project will enrich the lives of his people and their children and grandchildren. He dreams of greening a portion of the desert. Water, agricultural projects. He is a charismatic man and one meeting with him wins over the fisheries expert, played by Ewan McGregor. I adore Ewan McGregor. I have seen a good number of his films and his name attached to anything is significant enticement for me to buy a ticket. His performance in this movie is understated and, therefore, all the more brilliant.

Fred and the Sheik fish together and then dine together. They talk about faith; or, rather, the sheik mentions his and asks Fred if he is a religious man. Fred explains he is not. The sheik then asks how many hours he has spent fishing (waiting) before catching anything. Hours, sometimes hundreds, Fred replies. And that is faith. I loved this metaphor and it is delicately applied to the rest of the film as the faith of all the characters is tested and rewarded.

Before I wrap up this ramble, I want to quickly note that Emily Blunt’s performance as Harriet, the consultant, was very touching and Kristen Scott Thomas was hilarious as the press secretary. The deft direction is typical of Lasse Hallström (My Life as a Dog, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Cider House Rules, Chocolat).

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is based on a book of the same name by Paul Torday. I have dutifully added it to my reading list. Maybe I’ll take it fishing with me.

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