That's not hyperbole.
My dad, who is really a pretty good fisherman, has taken me fishing many times over the years. I've trolled for trout and angled for bass and jigged for salmon and even cast a few flies. I love the idea of fishing, but one thing has always been missing for me. One thing has always kept me from enjoying it the way my dad does, the way almost everyone who fishes enjoys it: the fish. I don't catch any.
In all of times I have fished in my life, whether in a row boat or a float tube or with waders or on the shore or 300 feet above a weighted down rigger, I can count the number of fish that I have caught over the past 30 odd years on two hands. I just don't catch fish. I'm cursed.
It doesn't make sense. 'The funny thing about fishing is that it isn't hunting. You don't have to stalk them or cover yourself with fish urine so they don't smell you. While diehard fishermen may disagree with me, success in fishing is largely about preparation and equipment. The right lure, the right spot, the right time, and voila, fish on the line. Equipment impacts hunting, but a good hunter can be largely successful with inferior equipment. On the other hand, while there is definitely skill involved in reeling and netting, all the skill in the world won't make fish bite the wrong lure at the wrong time.
That's what doesn't make sense about my inability to catch fish. I'll be on a boat with the latest person who is going to show me that the curse is nonsense. We'll be fishing at the same time, in the same spot, using the same equipment, and the fish just don't bite my line. I don't know why that is, but I know when it started.
When I was nine or ten, my family took a trip to Alaska. No, we didn't fly. We drove. Towing a trailer. 35 miles per hour. On a 2,000 mile dirt road. Sound fun?
It took a while to get there. But that was ok, because the fishing is great along the way. And it was.
30 years later, I still remember reeling in the grayling on rivers while being sucked dry by the biggest mosquitos you will ever see. (My brother bought a cap in Alaska with a picture the pest and the caption "Alaska State Bird".) Up till this point I was still a kind of normal kid when it came to fishing. Sometimes I caught fish, sometimes I didn't.
But that changed when we reached the Kenai River.
On the Kenai, the river literally boiled with fish. Salmon so thick, it looked like you could walk across the water on their backs. My dad caught a fish that was nearly as big as I was, and I wanted to go out on the river too, but I was young and the boat was full, so while they fished, I sat. Later though, because no one was going out and I wanted to catch a big fish like my dad, I grabbed a pole, geared up, and got in the boat by myself.
I wasn't going anywhere. The boat was tied to the dock. The older men and boys snickered a bit at the adorable ignorance of a 9 year old thinking the fish would swim up to the doc to be caught. (This is a disease that you catch if you fish too long. I call it I've-fished-so-long-I-forgot-that-fish-really-do-have-to-swim-up-and-bite-my-lure-itis.)
So I sat in the boat and cast my salmon pole out into the river in hopes of hooking a "big one".
And I did just that. (In your faces!)
I had reeled in a couple of times and then cast out again, when all of a sudden the pole started making this horrible whining noise as the line shot out of the reel. I was terrified. I had actually hooked a big salmon and had no idea what to do. So, like any red-blooded, american male in the throws of a primal and manly pursuit would do, I screamed.