The Lord gave me a dream several years ago, wherein I was fishing from a large rock that extended into the river. There was someone with me, but I do not remember who it was – a faceless friend would be a good way to describe my fishing buddy. I was using my steelhead pole with a level wind reel, cast the bait into the water and reeled in slowly to work the bait along the bottom of the river where the big fish are.
With the first cast, I reeled in too quickly and the bait did not reach the bottom. My fishing buddy suggested I reel in more slowly and keep my rod tip up to achieve more depth. With the 2nd cast, I felt the sinker bumping along the bottom of the river and I waited for the hesitation that would tell me I had a bite. When I felt what seemed like a bite, I set the hook and began to reel the fish in quickly. My ‘fishing buddy’ instructed me to slow down and take my time reeling in the fish, as a slow retrieve is better for landing a big fish.
As the fish was reeled in, I saw that it was foul hooked; specifically it was hooked in the side and not in the mouth. I knew I would have to let the fish go since it hadn’t been legally hooked. When the fish was at my feet where I could kneel to remove the hook from its side, the fish took on human qualities: eyes that expressed feelings and speech. The fish looked at me, and expressed great fear that I might hurt it. My heart went out to the fish.
As I reached into my tackle box for pliers to remove my hook, I noticed there were several other hooks embedded in the side of the fish, and in its mouth. I comforted the fish, and told it that after removing all the hooks, I would release it. Slowly and carefully I used my pliers to remove the hooks, some large, some rusty, and several with broken fishing line still attached, from it’s side and mouth. When the hooks were removed, I ran my hand over its skin to smooth the scarring. Some of the wounds were festered and in time the hooks would have fallen out. But since I had the opportunity and the fish and I were developing trust, I removed them all.
I had some fear of removing the hooks in it’s mouth and the fish was no more eager to have my hand in it’s mouth than I was to put it in there. But I was gentle and the fish didn’t thrash around where I might have gotten a hook in my hand. I don’t remember whether I used the pliers on the hooks in the fishes mouth or my bare hands. I think it was my bare hands. I was as relieved as the fish was when all the hooks were removed and there were no injuries; like it was a successful surgery.
As I worked, the fish began yelling at a pair of fisherman up river who were fishing from a sand bar without success. They were trophy hunters who did not practice catch and release. They were using gaff hooks and simply ripped fish out of the river and flipped them onto the sand bar. I don’t remember word for word what the fish yelled at them, but it was an expression of joy, relief, and perhaps even a little taunting that this time a merciful fisherman had caught it and that I was helping it and intended to release it back to the river. The 2 fisherman up river had an angry look on their faces – a scowl.
When the hooks were removed, we bid each other farewell and I let the fish go with a pat. I enjoyed catching, helping and releasing the fish more than I ever enjoyed catching, keeping and eating a fish. And I had the distinct feeling that my luck at fishing would improve, because the fish would tell others about the kindly fisherman. In fact, I had the sense that my days of using a fishing pole were over. The other fish would voluntarily come to me based on the witness of the fish I caught and released.
My fishing buddy seemed to affirm me as I was doing all this, with an arm around my shoulder and in the end commented that we’d had “a good day”.