As some of you are aware, I kind of almost cut the tip of my right index finger off about three weeks ago. It was what specialists call “an industrial accident”. The main difference between one of those and a garden variety accident is the lack of alcohol or double-dog-dares involved.
My finger is healing very well, thanks for asking, but last night it hurt a little. So I dreamed that I was carrying a fishing rod (with a spinning reel) with the hook swinging loose. I reached out to control the line and had the very tip of the hook jab into my fingertip. It’s a pretty common occurrence if you fish, and it doesn’t hurt very much- but in my dream the hook just kept getting set into my fingertip, deep, the barb pushing in.
The truth of it is I’ve only suffered minor pricks from fish hooks in the past thirty or so years. But one year, with a storm rolling in, my father took a more serious hook incident…
We were fishing off stump point in Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County, Maryland. Garrett County is basically West Virginia. We had been out since just after dawn, and thunderclouds were rolling over the lake. We were in shallow water, just full of submerged tree stumps, and a fierce wind was kicking up some chop.
“One last cast, and let’s go in,” my dad says, eyeing the sky.
We both cast- we were using live bait, minnows- in opposite directions. I probably lit a cigarette, since I smoked then and fishing was a grand time to smoke.
“Or maybe we should just go in,” my dad says as a few gusts of wind push the boat closer to the stumps. We both start to reel in when- WHAM-WHAM- our bobbers go down within a split second and about two feet of each other.
“Jesus Christ, did we both hook the same goddamn fish!?” I shriek.
We’re laughing, rocked by the wind and surf, trying to pull in our lines and also push off from the stumps the rented aluminum hull boat is scraping up against.
I get the net and scoop first my fathers and then my own fish, dropping his into a bucket of fresh water- it barely fit, a Chain Pickerel at about 14 inches long, with ugly teeth and the hook sticking out of its cheek. My own was slightly longer, maybe 15 or 16 inches- also a Chain Pick- or maybe they were Northern Pike? Skinny freshwater fish with sharp teeth, that I’m sure of.
I manage to de-hook my fish and release him back into the water when the first raindrops start to fall.
“Shit,” says my dad.
“Did it swallow the hook?” I ask.
“My thumb did,” he says.
Right through the side, deep, deep deep.
“Could you release the fish for me?” he says. So I do.
He starts the motor and I drive us towards the center of the lake, so we aren’t banging into the submerged stumps. Then comes the fun part, where he pushes the hook the rest of the way through his thumb with a pair of needle-nosed pliers. I clip the end off and draw it out with tweezers. He wraps his finger in a bandanna- red, as I recall, and when we got to shore he poured some vodka all over his thumb before bandaging it up.
I know we drove back to Pittsburgh- where we lived at the time- that same morning. I can’t remember if he drove or if I did. He was very proud of his wound- more so, I think, of how calmly we both dealt with it. We laughed that it was a good thing he hadn’t tried to rinse the wound in the lake water, God knows that couldn’t have ended well.
So that is what I think of, when I think of dreams about fishhooks.