As a society, we’re not very good at sitting around. We like action,
decision, results. That’s probably why so many sayings
exist to mollify us when we do have to bide our time: “Patient
as a saint.” “Patience is a virtue.” “Good things come to those who wait.”
But if you’ve ever spent twelve hours in the middle of the ocean with a
fishing rod and a pack of anti-nausea gum, you know those platitudes
don’t always help.
Of all the hobbies you can take up, fishing has the lowest patience to-
payoff ratio. When you make a model airplane, it may take you six
months to finish, but at least you have an impressive Cessna 172 Skyhawk
to show for your time. If the fish aren’t biting, you can sit there forever
and come home with nothing. However, for real enthusiasts, waiting
isn’t a problem. The longer it takes to catch the big one, the sweeter it
is when you do.
Many anglers have fishing in their blood, and their love of the
sport runs deep. Like Kathleen Curran, they were raised with a pole in
one hand and bait in the other. Curran, who’s fifty-eight, started fishing
with her father when she was four and vividly remembers his hauling
her out of bed one night to see a thirty-five-pound striped bass he’d
caught. They would get up at three in the morning to fish in the Hudson
River, near the Statue of Liberty, in their little aluminum boat—just the
two of them and their own private statue.
When Curran was thirteen, her father wanted to go catch a shark,
so she and her brother went out with him and chummed, tossing pig’s
blood and fish parts into the water to attract the shark. “Sure enough,
we got a hit; we were using half a bluefish as bait,” she says. “I turned
the wheel and it wouldn’t go. The shark played for a little while and then
let go. The hook was bent sideways—the shark was that big.”
That was the one that got away.
It took forty-three more years, but in 2006, Curran finally caught
the big one.
While vacationing at an eco-camp on the Baja California peninsula,
Curran hired a local fisherman to take her out for the day in his
skiff. Carrying a hat and a cooler of sandwiches and cold beers, she met
him at his boat at dawn. For the first few hours, she fished for bait.
Eventually, she caught a yellowfin tuna. Then they headed out to the
middle of the Sea of Cortez. Curran took the last piece of live bait, put it
on a hook, and let it go.
“Within seconds, up jumps this beautiful dorado,” she says. “I had
to play that fish to get him in. It was an epic battle. The fisherman never
saw a woman do this. The dorado was four and a half feet long. It was
huge, with a head like a dolphin. It was every color . . . like a rainbow.
Right before it died, it just glittered.”
Curran cried. That day, May 28, was the anniversary of her father’s
death. “I just felt like it was his spirit,” she says.
Curran returned to shore after eight hours on the water. The hired
fishermen usually clean the fish, but she took care of this one herself.
She cleaned it, filleted it, packaged it up, and gave it to friends. “It’s a very
personal thing,” she says. “I’m always mindful. It’s really a spiritual link
you have with the creature—you took his life. It didn’t even dawn on me
until the fish was in the boat what day it was.”