I’M seldom ever called a geek, but when it comes to fishing, geek could well be my middle name. I’ve been fishing for a good 13 years, starting when I couldn’t even speak intelligibly. I watched my parents fish at three, and reeled in my first line at four with Mommy’s hands over mine. My first real solo catch didn’t happen until I was five.
It happened quite by chance—and sheer beginner’s luck—over a weekend fishing outing off the waters of Tuas. The best part of it all was that this grey cartilaginous fish speckled with dainty blue dots was caught from our yacht docked at our berth when the engines hadn’t even started running yet.
That Saturday, when my parents were preparing the hooks late morning just before setting off, Mommy stuck a rod in my hands just to keep me occupied. In less than five minutes, there came a jerk at my line. It seemed like a tug-of-war with another kid my size, except this was a stingray no more than 300 grams and 20 centimeters. Of course, at that age, I knew squat about the whole mechanics of stingrays struggling free from a hook.
Once they’ve been hooked, fishes and stingrays would do all they can to swim against the direction of the line. The only difference is that stingrays have a larger surface area and they use this to great advantage to tire their foe. Each time you pull at the line, a stingray would stand itself up vertically, giving you the sensation you were trying to haul in an open sail or a parachute. And when you tire and slack a little, it goes horizontal and swims further away. For this reason, stingrays are hard to catch. My feisty little stingray didn’t win the fight though. I pulled and reeled, pulled and reeled, leaning backwards against Mommy who steadied me with firm, encouraging hands over my shoulders.
My other big fishing victory was a catch at Sultan Shore, off Jurong Island, when I was only six. It was a painted sweetlip snapper with yellow dots on its cheeks, about a meter long, weighing some 10 kilograms. It took a good 25 minutes to get it in: 10 minutes of my effort, 10 minutes of Mommy’s, and then the rest, Daddy’s expert haul.
One of the benefits of going fishing is that we get to eat our own catch, knowing that whatever we reel in is the freshest possible fruits of the sea.
Fresh seafood aside, fishing brings other joys. Going out into the open waters with the sky as your roof is exhilarating. It frees you from the stress of school, and all the nonsense associated with it. You breathe better air, you think sweeter thoughts. Best of all, you have all kinds of equipment to fiddle with–nautical gauges in the yacht, reels and rods, hooks and sinkers, lures and baits.
Since I’m no wimp, I never play with lures. What captivates me is the cooler stuff, all the controls the captain plays with at the cockpit. There are so many things one can learn here: you get to chart new waters, learn how to conquer new terrains, and connect with nature and all its elements. If that doesn’t quite sound like fishing, it’s because it feels more like life.
Chua Yu Zhan, Secondary Four