For a while we just drifted along, rocking in the big silence that always follows a motor's shutting down. The rocking was pleasant, complemented by the sailing gulls and the salt smell everywhere. It took me back to those old summer vacations, and the red-nosed uncles, and the weird cousins, and the aunts with their playing cards.
It was only right that my father should get the first strike. He'd paid for the skiff, after all, and he'd just turned 68. His rod bowed suddenly. The line on his light reel, no more than six-pound test, went ripping out at an alarming rate.
"Check your drag," my brother advised him.
My father fumbled with the knob on his reel, loosening it so the line went out more easily, with less resistance. He couldn't afford to apply much pressure, not with such flimsy gear. This put him under stress, because he's a legendarily impatient angler.
"Keep your rod high," I told him. "Make the fish work."
"I know what I'm doing," he said sharply.
The fish took out more line; my father got some back. The dance was a classic one—gain and loss, loss and gain. It continued for 20 minutes, until the fish tired and my father was able to lead it slowly to the side of the boat. Again I saw those colors—blue, green, purple—more vibrant than before in the swirling water.
It was a weakie—a broad female full of roe. She had a mottling of dark green along her back. We put her in the cooler.
My father was smiling. He looked about 25. The fish was the biggest he'd caught in years.
Almost immediately the boat rod began hammering against the skiff's gunwales. I grabbed it and set the hook. This fish didn't fight as well, perhaps because of the stiffness of my rod. I brought the fish to net in 10 minutes—another weakie, as brilliant as the first, though maybe smaller. I wished I'd taken it in the surf, on my O'Neill rod and reel. The odds would have been better; the fish might have had a chance.