An endless, temperate, late spring day lay before us when Dad and I stood waist deep in the cold green water of Crystal Lake. We were fishing for pan fish.
“I got another one,” Dad shouted. His fly rod arched, pointing toward the hooked sunfish that swam circles beneath the water’s glass-like surface. We had fished for a couple of hours. Dad’s creel, a fabric pouch he strapped to his waist just above water line, bulged with the day’s catch.
“Hand her to me,” I suggested. “I have more room in my live bag than you have in your creel.” Fly fishers may use a creel to conveniently transport their catch. Or, fish may be corralled in a live bag that holds their catch under water.
“Na,” Dad replied. “I’ll just jam her in.” Jam indeed! When Dad pushed the fish into his creel another fish accidentally popped out.
Like a submarine, a fish descends when she takes water into her bladder. To ascend, she expels water. If fish are stuffed into a creel, they gulp air into their bladders instead of water.
“Darn, one got away,” Dad shouted. With her bladder full of air, the sunfish swam lazily, on the surface of the lake, circling Dad.
“I’ll grab her. She seems stunned.” Too far for Dad’s reach, the sunfish extended her circle of escape. With her mouth below waterline and her back and dorsal fin above the water’s surface, the fish reminded me of the evil shark in the movie, "Jaws." Our escapee continued to swim toward the center of the lake. Barely visible at this distance, we noticed a change in her direction.
“Look at that!” Dad’s voice arose above the water. The sunfish slowly continued to turn left in a great arch and headed back toward us.
“Dum, dum, dum, dum,” I sang as the fish, like Jaws, cruised in our direction.
“She’s headed straight for me!” Dad shouted. “Hold my fly rod. I’ll catch her in my hands.” Catch indeed! Dad scooped the wayward sunfish and returned her to his creel.
Fluid dynamics may explain the sunfish’s odd, above the surface, swimming behavior. She escaped because she was pushed out of an over stuffed creel. Maybe the fish swam in a large circle because she had more strength in her left pectoral fin than her right? What I can’t explain, however, is why she returned to be recaptured?
Maybe there is no answer? Many things can’t be explained. When inexplicable events happen, we are called to accept these occurrences for what they are, anomalies in our seemingly predictable lives.
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Life Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
Richard Wilberg is a coach, musician, photographer, and former business leader who lives in Madison, Wisconsin.