The Day I met the King
“An avid hunter comes face to face with a stag and his gun jams. The deer charges and stops at the last moment. It stares at the hunter and walks away. The hunter is thus transformed for life.” You read about these experiences all the time. Well, I just had a similar experience with a fish.
We were camping in North Western Ontario. After lunch I decided to snorkel in the crystal clear water. I gently swam toward a familiar cove. In past years I spotted juvenile fish here. Even one or two adults. I have tried to catch them and came close one or two times. Nothing prepared me for what I was about to witness.
Over an underwater ridge that looked like the surface of the moon I spotted a large shadow and swam toward it. The closer I got the clear it became. It is a good sized fish. Excited, I quickened my strokes. My lucky day. The shadow moved away, gliding in clear water like a ghost blown away by the wind.
When the fish arrived at an underwater boulder it stopped, allowing me to take a closer look. I always loved watching fish in their natural habitat. It begun as a way to learn their behaviours so I can be a better fisherman, then I realized I just loved seeing animals in the comfort of their own homes. This fish was a beautiful small mouth bass. About 18 inches long with its dorsal fin fully extended – a display when they feel threatened.
I floated around the fish and just watched it, letting the gentle current created by the warm breeze above carry both of us. The ripples on the surface are projected onto our bodies by the brilliant noon sun, giving us magical, dancing lights. We both became extremely relaxed. The fish retracted its dorsal fin and I peed in the water.
As if by commend a series of shadows came around the boulder. They were large basses. And by large I mean LARGE! Most of them are over 20 inches. There is one that is close to 30 inches long. I didn’t know bass grew that big. Certainly not in this part of the country. I only heard of these monster fish in fishing magazines. Feeling somewhat threatened, I rotated around and soon wished I hadn’t. Behind me was another line of giant bass. All told there must have been 20 or 25 of these aquatic hunters around me. They formed a tight circle and just watched me struggle to keep calm.
After the fear comes the acceptance.
I slowed my heart down and just watched them back. Beautiful creatures in a weightless world of light and shadows. Instead of trying to swim back to my canoe and get my fishing gear I just suspended there. There is no fish and fisherman, just us. My hunter instinct was replaced by bliss and complete happiness. I do not need another trophy on my wall. I only want my trophy to swim in paradise, forever.
The biggest bass of the group caught my attention. He was a magnificent 33 inch giant of a fish. When I extended my arms to estimate his size he came in for a hug, then playfully turned away one two feet away from my face. There was an air of majestic mystique about him. I swam toward him and he led me on a tour of his watery kingdom. Along the way we met other youngsters hanging about fault lines and rock piles. They greeted each other with gesturing of their tails. When I couldn’t keep up he waited for me and watched me from his right eye. The water got cold when we swam in shadows and got warm when we were in the sun. The end of the tour took us back to where we started – the big boulder. There he aimed for a sharp piece of rock and picked up speed. Without warning he rolled his massive body and glided past the rock, letting the hard edge graze the scales on his back. This is their King, and the King is happy and relaxed.
I wanted to present the king with some gifts. Remembering I have some worms left over from earlier I went back to the canoe to grab it. When I found the King and his mates again I opened the styrofoam box underwater. Six and a half worms floated in all directions and landed on the bottom of the cove. No worm found their way to any fish.
Luckily I was able to grab a worm before it disappeared beneath the rocks. I put it back in the box and pretended nothing happened. The king looked on with an expression-less face. What wouldn’t I give to be able to look sideways and whistle underwater.
(Not the actual fish)
In the calming waters of my mind I remembered that bass likes to attack prey from below. So I threw my last worm at the king from above the surface. The worm made no splash and started descending. The King’s friend inched forward but was halted by the King himself. With a smooth and effortless extension of his massive jaws the worm disappeared. He accepted my offering. I was so happy my eyes got watery and lost a contact lens.
And just like that, my audience with the King of Fish was over.
On the drive home back to the city I was still in my pink bubble of happiness. What is Fish Conservation? It means to keep something the way it has been. To me, Conservation is a losing battle because things are always going to change. What about Fish Creation? Meaning we are moving forward to create new habitats where humans and fish can co-exist and be happy and healthy together. The First Nations people lived in harmony with nature without the internet, electricity, metal tools or even a written language. There is no reason why we cannot accomplish this.
In the future there will be tens of thousands of new cleaned up coves in city and country sides. Children can swim with fish and learn about them. The fish will feed us and guard our world by monitoring the ecology. It is possible because it already happened. It is possible because I have seen it.
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