Fish Netting
By: Brad Cole

“Pull up some net. I’m going to push the boat away from the bank,” Billy said.

I had been standing silently in the middle of the 18 foot metal craft watching the wind blow against the willows, growing ever stronger with the approaching dark clouds, while a pair of ravens flew over head playing with the wind.

Once Billy left the bow I stepped up to where the fish net was draped and dripping across the front of the boat. Beginning at the bank we had taken stripped the net clean of fish and now were working our way along it toward the end which was out in the middle of the slough.

Just then another gust of wind hit my head and threatened to flip off my cap. I watched as it rolled and rippled across the water then into the far bank that was thick with willows. The ripples on the water continued for some time, looking like scratches fanning out across the river’s surface. After the whirling sound of the wind in the willows faded I only heard the sleepy whispers of waves dropping on the nearby mud hardened bank.

I looked down at the net as it fell from the edge of the boat and into the dark depths of the river. There a salmon, two pikes, and three white fish all squirmed in the dripping wet mesh of the net. Looking at the net farther out a float bobbed suddenly underwater and then bounced back to the surface; it was wriggling up and down as though gasping for air.

Leaning slightly over the side of the boat I pulled up hard on the river soaked, fish filled net. Flipping and twitching about several fish struggled in the air to free themselves from the net’s grasp. Bending forward again I pulled with my arms and back and this time was able to drop the fresh catch into the bow of the boat where the fish flopped about like rain soaked leaves in the wind.

I kneeled down and was about to push the fish through the net and toss them into the large plastic container when from the stern Billy shouted, “Just wait a minute I’m almost done pushing the boat out.”

Sitting on the edge of the boat and watching the fish on the floor of the boat wrestle with the net I thought about their bodies moving like the wind, flashing beautifully and fiercely through the dark cold waters of the river, their eyes still bright with life. Then I thought of the dream catcher I had hanging in my bedroom. It was a small hoop with a net inside to catch the spirit of passing dreams, so one can better see their influence on your life and grow more whole from self knowledge. The spirit of the river was in these fish, like the spirit of my life was lodged in my dreams. It was like an inner landscape struggling to find and connect to the outer landscape of our lives.

Again the wind slammed past me and into the willows where the trees tossed about like the net of a basketball hoop getting slugged by a bouncing ball.

I thought about how these bright fishy spirits of the river fed our bodies like dreams swimming into and feeding our dark and hungry lives, or perhaps dreams come to us the way the wind comes to the willows, filling them easily with its fast and fierce beauty.