“Hey honey,” I said, hands on my hips and a look of incredulity plastered across my face. “Do you know what I’ve always dreamed of? Putting these hands in a bucket full of maggots, staring into the water for 10 hours straight and a flapping fish slapping my face! I mean, do you know what a manicure costs these days?”
He looked at me wearily and began massaging his own temples, perhaps a little too used to my outburst. “Fine,” he said, “because all I’ve ever wanted to do is to eat ice cream and watch Colin Firth movies. I’m so happy we do that every Friday.”
Fighting sarcasm with sarcasm can lead to ugly situations, and sometimes it’s best to let him have his way. So I agreed to this fishing weekend as a one-off. At the very least, I wouldn’t have to do it again.
I thought all that was left to do was buy some fishing tackle online and off we go. But hey, fishing is a real sport apparently. My boyfriend told me I needed to get a rod licence, which was far easier than I’d have thought it would be, as you can get them from the Post Office website for just £10 for a week, and you don’t have to prove you know how to fish in order to get it. (If only a driving licence was so easy to obtain!)
Step two, I went to Sports Direct website and got overwhelmed by the amount of fishing equipment on offer. I thought that rods came ready with reels, hooks and all the other fish-detrimental paraphernalia, but nope – you have to put it all together by yourself. Luckily, boyfriends have their uses, and mine offered to help me with my rod conundrums and even share some of his fishing bait. It made the perfect accessory to the waders I picked. Introducing Spring 2013: forget Alexander McQueen and John Galliano – this season it’s grey, khaki, and it goes up to your chest to give you a fuller figure and the volume of a tree trunk.
When the big weekend arrived, and my boyfriend’s friends picked us up and we drove to the middle of nowhere, known also as Shropshire. I stood there on the river bank, decked out in my khaki waders, armed with rods and worms as the longest day of my life began.
The boys concentrated on the water; I meditated on whether the boyfriend was really worth it. For the first couple of hours, nobody caught any fish, but it only took me about an hour before I gave up on becoming a committed fisherwoman and put on my audiobooks. While immersing myself in The Bourne’s Identity, I feigned enthusiasm when occasionally someone caught a fish, but I was surprised; I thought they would make a big macho fuss about it and take lots of pictures, holding the poor fish like a trophy. They explained that they always release the fish back into the water with the greatest of care, gently using the disgorger to unhook the fish properly. Happily, it seems my boyfriend is not a murderer after all.
It gradually dawned on me that it isn’t the inner hunter that gets him going on these fishing escapades, rather a desire to get closer to nature. We live on busy streets, distracted by constant notifications from oversharing friends and voucher deals. You can let all of that go when you’re standing waist-deep in a lake.
Mid-way through the day (still no major fishing success), I switched from action-filled Bourne to John Mulaney’s stand-up act, New in Town. I tried to hold back my laughter, but I didn’t last more than a minute before they told me off. One more thing I’ve learned about fishing: giggling is considered bad form. Apparently, it tips the fish off to their impending struggle.
Then the strangest thing happened: I caught a fish. Not too big, neither too pretty – maybe 15 cm long and flapping everywhere. In some kind of trance, I followed my boyfriend’s instructions and suddenly I had this strange little creature in my hands. I made all the boys proud and, back at the cabin, consumed large quantities of booze to wash off this mucky experience.
To sum up, girls, if you think about how often we force our boyfriends to do girly things, it’s perhaps fair to give them the odd fishing weekend every now and again. And next time, when we ask them to stay in and watch New Girl, or force them into a trek along Oxford Street, we can tell them: you’re doing this because I held a slimy fish in my hands.
by Sonia Waszkowiak