I’ve never fancied myself as a fisherwoman, not even after growing up and living on the Cornish coast for the majority of my 26 years. But as we were speeding across Winnipeg’s Red River in the melting autumn sun, going so fast that my glasses flew off my face and disappeared forever into the clay-coloured water, I knew this wasn’t going to be any ordinary day behind a fishing reel.
Our guide for the day, Todd Longley, seeped nothing less than rock ‘n’ roll, was covered in fish tattoos and wasn’t scared to drop an f-bomb or ten in front of four virgin-catfishers.
Todd didn’t spare us the gore that goes hand in hand with catching fish, and we had little warning of the dead frogs he was about to crucify with a fishing hook and leave dangling like a warning to the others of their inevitable fate.
Lesson number one of catfishing: there’s no room for being squeamish.
With four rods lazily bobbing in the river, it was time to soak in the last of the Canadian sun and find out what on earth we were in for. Todd, who moonlights at the nearby Coca Cola Factory, told us that to become a Master Angler, we had to catch a catfish over 24″. We all looked at each other with nothing other than “oh shit” expressions.
Rule number two of catfishing: go big or go home.
One rod started to pull and the game was on. One fish in the boat, 26″. The next to be tugged in by pure, brute force, 28″. The next 28.5″. Lordy.
Of course, we all wanted the glory photo of holding up our catches. Unfortunately, rule number one still hadn’t sunk in, and as it turned out, sticking our hands inside the pulsating gills of a floundering fish isn’t the most pleasant of experiences. “WHAT’S ITS MOUTH DOING!?” Could be heard for miles up and down the Red River.
Now, I like to think I’m a pretty strong female. Up for anything. Almost all of the time. But when I’m scared or nervous or outright disgusted I laugh and laugh and laugh, louder and louder and louder.
Rule number three of catfishing: shut the f up.
However rock ‘n’ roll Todd is, I’m not sure how confident he was to be dealing with four howling females on a boat in the middle of a river. Yo-yoing between trying to stick our hands through pumping flesh and standing back in horror, Todd had obviously had enough of the screeching.”Just pick it up!” Yes, sir.
As the afternoon floated along, we caught more monster fish, or “holy-fuck-fish” as Todd put it, than we knew what to do with. We got more confident, even wanted to reel in our next catch ourselves, only not to be able to pick them up due to monstrous weight and far too much laughing.
As our catches began to dwindle, we decided it best to head back to shore where we could boast about our beginners luck to anyone who would listen.
We sped home and I mourned the death of my forever lost glasses in payment for my Winnipeg fishing license and Master Angler status.