Fishing stories

Oliver Knill


Fishing needs patience. It needs hours or days of wait without a single catch. This can be frustrating. My brother and I had been exposed to fishing since we were four years old. Our grandfather Sigbert Bader would take us with him to various little brooks, where he would stand into the cold water, wait, feel with his hands under the shoulders of the river until he would feel a fish, pat the fish slowly first at the back then closer and closer to the head. Finally, he would catch the fish with both hands and take it out of the water. My brother and I were the ``police". We had to check that nobody would come along and ``disturb" my grandfather who would pull out one fish after the other and place it in the shades.

We were told at home that my grandfather has a license, but I'm still not sure today whether he assigned us the ``police work" just to keep us entertained and whether he really had a permit. In any cases, fishing by hand is an art, which I never mastered. It needs a lot of patience. Even if the fish has been reached a position in the hands, this is not enough. The skin is very slippery. Catching too early and the fish slips away. One must have the guts to wait and caress the fish until one reaches the head. It needs amazing patience to have the fish between both hands, resist to catch it but to stroke it lovingly until one reaches the part near the head. There is little love after that: Once the fish is caught, one thumb is placed into the mouth and the neck is broken. photo 2020 liver Knill, Mary Cummings park


My brother and I also used to go up the Baltschieder valley to fish in the glacier water. Most fish we would catch were so small that we had to throw them back into the river. The Baltschieder Valley is now part of the World Heritage Region. It is an amazing place and the Baltschieder river is amazing.

One day it became clear, why our luck had been so scarce. We found the rests of detonation devices with which some soldiers had been fishing before (the devices were military parts but since every Swiss also has to go to military it could also have been civilians who had been using grenades). The small bombs had exploded under the water. The ropes which were used as triggers still could be seen. Of course, fishing by dynamite destroys the habitat for a longer period of time. No wonder, we had no luck with our conventional tackle. It was too bad, since we had payed in Ausserberg for a licence to fish. photo 2017 Oliver Knill, Balscheider


In our home village, some farmers would fill up the village pond with fish for recreation reasons. Of course, this was a strong temptation to try for some kids. The fish inside that public pond were so hungry, we did not even need any bait. The fish would attack the tackle directly (even without worm or bread on it). It was only a matter seconds to catch a fish. There was no challenge. Place the tackle in, pull the fish out. The fish were good, although. It must be said that even so the pond was openly accessible and on public land, the fish were not. Fishing, as in most places needed a permit.
One day, a ranger who observed the area caught us. He drove with his 4 wheel car directly towards the pond. We were three kids, saw him coming and ran away. We were chased through a field, the fish were in the buckets with us, we were able to ran faster through the muddy terrain than the car could drive and we succeeded to escape safely into a nearby forest.
Only a few hours after however, the police knocked at the home door. They knew, who the fishers were. The reason could be added to the list of ``stupid criminal incidents": we had parked our bikes near the main road. We had escaped and afterwards safely recovered the bikes, but the ranger found the bikes too and recorded their license plates (in Switzerland, each bike had to have a registered plate at that time). We were screwed. We had to pay a hefty fee and learned our lesson. photo 2018 Oliver Knill, Uhwiesen


The following fishing scene from the movie War with Grandpa illustrates two of the above stories.
There is a great fishing scene in the western My name is nobody (1973) which is just because of its simplicity and impressive actors (Terrence Hill is just fun to watch and also Henry Fonda does not have to say much, to be iconic) one of my favorite ``Spagetti" westerns together with ``The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" and "Once upon a time in the West". It is an iconic scene could serve as an allegory of the entire film: the fish is Jack Beauregard (Henry Fonda) who is caught by ``Nobody" (Terrence Hill) in order to be made into a legend.
Fishing appears several times in the Lord of the rings movie. Smeagol finds the ring while fishing and as Golum eats fish raw and juicy. Here is the opening scene in the third part of the trilogy.
The fishing theme also appears in the Jane Austin novels where ``liking fishing" is considered linked to low social status. Of course, gentlemen (which by definition is a ``person without profession" as pointed out by Austin in ``Sense and Sensibility" at one point) do ``hunting", not ``fishing". Jane Austin genius is to take such small status things and make fun of it. Here is a scene from the movie implementation from 1995:

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Using dynamite helping with fishing appears in the movie Darwin awards.

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