Recently I re-read Dad’s book– memoirs of his navy career. After 17 years of sailing around
the world, it must have been hard for him to finally settle down and become a family man.
Dad had also been an outstanding athlete and, no doubt, he hoped to have a son who would share his sporting interests.
Unfortunately, I turned out to be clumsy and unathletic, the oldest of three daughters.
The only outdoor pursuit Dad and I enjoyed together was an occasional fishing trip, something
that became his greatest source of pleasure in retirement.
When I grew up and left home to become a world traveler, however, it was evident I had
inherited Dad’s stamina and strength, along with his love of outdoor adventure.
On one occasion, my physical limits were put to the test during a six-week journey in
East Africa. Tracking gorillas in Zaire and traversing the Northwest Territory of Kenya by camel
and on foot offered sufficient proof that I was physically fit at 50. But, the joy of these
challenges paled in comparison on the morning I went fishing.
Before dawn, in Kenya’s Masai Mara, I rendezvoused with the dashing bush pilot of a four-seater Cessna at the airstrip near Little Governor’s tented camp. As we flew low over the dense, raw terrain I watched life begin to stir in the occasional circle of shambas (camp huts) below. Our spectacular 40-minute wilderness flight ended at the shore of Lake Victoria, world’s second largest freshwater lake and source of the River Nile.
A delicious breakfast of fresh orange juice and fishcakes awaited us at Rusinga Island Fish Camp. Over the last cup of coffee, the young captain of our 16-foot boat announced, “If
you hook a big one, it’s all yours!”
“The Tilapia here make a fine tasting meal,” he said, “but we want Nile Perch. They look and behave very much like a big-mouth bass.”
Soon we reached a “hole where the big ones are biting”. The first one got away from one of the other two passengers in the boat. When the next hit came, I grabbed the rod and yelled, “This one’s mine.”
The high-pitched whine of the line leaving my reel went on and on and on. I knew it was something gigantic. “Keep the line tight. Reel in only when you CAN’T feel the fish pulling away from the boat,” yelled the guide.
He was almost as excited as I the first time the fish jumped. It must be the biggest bass in the whole world!
I began to drip with sweat and breathe deeply, but the captain never touched the line. He just kept telling me how great I was doing.
“The end is surely near,” I thought. But my fish was not willing to surrender yet. Near the side of the boat, he jumped again, glared, then turned and raced for open water.
When the pain began to gnaw along my entire right side, I leaned way back with the strength of my left thigh, and steadily moved with him around to the other side of the boat. I was exhausted.”Is it possible this fish can pull me overboard? Shouldn’t I be strapped down?”
Suddenly, I knew I was going to win. “This one’s for you, Dad,” I whispered. “You’ll be so proud.” In the heated struggle, I lost all track of time. My three companions said it took 40 minutes to land him, all 167 pounds.
Hanging on the scale, the Nile Perch dwarfed me, but only in size. That morning, I felt bigger inside, much younger, and more important than I could remember feeling in a long time. And why not? After all, I was the world’s best fisher-daughter.
Two weeks before he died, I gave Dad my framed Rusinga Island Fishing certificate with a
picture of our fish for his 85th birthday. Judging from his broad grin, it must have been the best
gift ever. He asked me to tell him the story over and over again.
To schedule this one-day fishing safari in Kenya, call 800-323-7308.