There is a Lagoon behind our house with ducks, geese, swans, and a lot of the cool birds that fly around New Zealand. Because it’s spring here, there are lots of baby ducks, which is pretty much the cutest ever. Every year, the main chain Hunting & Fishing store in New Zealand holds a trout fishing extravaganza at the lagoon, where children can sign up for free and secure a half hour spot to fish for trout. The neighborhood, in particular our landlord/ friend/ neighbors were all a buzz about this event a couple of weeks in advance. Elly was even nice enough to ride out to the store to sign up Umberto and bring back his form and number, which was 174, and he was so proud that he recorded 5 or 6 Skype messages to tell his grandmothers. (I have no idea if any of them ever sent.) A lot of the buzz in the neighborhood centered around the delivery of the trout. The neighbors kept mentioning it and making a face that was kind of a half giggle with a back of ridiculous. And, sure enough, when the Friday came for the trout delivery, we were promptly told and hurried over to the lagoon to see what the fuss was about. We hung around with the ducks and waited. The ducks were a bit on edge because the Hunting & Fishing guys had netted the lagoon in half and then cordoned off an area for the trout delivery. There was much ado among the ducks. Here they are looking at us anxiously hoping for answers:
And we began to understand why the neighbors were always making that weird face when they talked about the delivery. Most everyone’s questions were answered, including the ducks’, except maybe one person’s, who wasn’t quite convinced yet:
As we silly Americans watched the truck pull up, we thought that the delivery would end up being an ordeal between many men arguing over which way is the best way to get the truck over to the lagoon, what way is the best way to transport the trout, who knew the best route and was going to be in charge, yadda yadda yadda. You other Americans know what I’m talking about: you get more than 2 men over a particular age involved in a task and it takes at least double the time to get it done because they all know what’s best and what’s right, etc. Well, the four men who were involved in getting the truck from the road to the lagoon and then getting the trout into the lagoon managed to do it in a matter of a few minutes. Without talking, they picked up the wooden barrier between the road and the lagoon grass, moved it aside, and backed the truck right up to the water without deviation. I had never seen anything like it! One man in fishing pants promptly hopped atop the truck, opened the latch, and another pulled out the hose. Yes, folks, that’s right, a hose. They opened up the latch between the hose and the tank, and then this is the only thing that happened:
Hmmm, no trout. Okay….so what do we do now? Well, Umbe asked a man if he could use the net to move the larger trout out of the tank so that maybe the smaller ones could fit through the hose. And you know what, the man agreed. So they got to work:
And so it went. Lots and lots of trout, about a thousand of them, were displaced into the lagoon. And the neighbors were right: it is quite a strange affair watching a thousand trout being thrust, flopping madly, out of a not-so-large hose with the rapid speed of a water flush.
Two days later Umbe dressed in his swim clothes–“you know, mommy,” he tells me, “just in case I have an accident”–and we headed back out to the lagoon with Umbe’s number 174 registration in order to get his trout fishing on. He was very excited. His friend Otis also came. After checking in, Umbe reported to the training camp, where an expert gives basic fishing lessons. Umbe got to be the fish:
Once the group had the basics down, they reported to their fishing stations, where they had an expert guide, a pole, goggles to save the hook from catching their eyeballs, which apparently has been a past problem, and a box of worms. Umbe got settled in, wormed his hook, or hooked his worm (your choice), and cast his line. No sooner did he cast his line and maybe blink once that he had a bite! So he held fast and strong:
He placed it on the ground, and the guide explained to him in very clear terms that he was going to thump the trout on the head to kill it. Umbe said, “yes, okay,” not even flinching. The trout was thumped, threaded, and Umbe admired his catch with the proudest face I’ve seen in a long time.
(I think they’re actually fake punching each other. It’s a thing…)
Again, I was and still am very grateful for the kind man who gutted and rinsed the trout. But here I was, having to filet it. I know how to do this, but it’s not my favorite job, and especially not my favorite job when I don’t have a sharp knife. Good tools are the key to every kitchen success. (Well, it definitely makes it easier.)
The only disappointing part of the day (for me) was that Umbe wanted his trout fried. Yes, folks, fried trout. Now he brought home the dinner, so he got the choice. I tried to steer him toward the steamed in bamboo with herbs and bok choy over a delicate bed of rice direction, which he thought was nice, but nope, fried. So I cut the trout with my dull knife into mangled filets, battered it up, fried it, and served it to him with some broccoli and biscuits from that morning. He loved it.
The trout, which I only had a small bite of, was delicious. It was clean, a bit citrusy, and even not so bad fried, but I will take the credit for that :).
The netting was removed later that afternoon, and we have been able to frequent the lagoon and continue to practice our fishing. We don’t have a good rod and reel yet, but I think Santa may take care of that.
I am ever grateful to my wonderful neighbors, Stu and Elly, for making sure we had this experience, the Hunting & Fishing men for arranging the event and taking special notice of Umberto over the days we had with them. One man in particular, who we unfortunately never exchanged names with, was an exceptional mentor to Umbe throughout the week. Umbe has definitely caught the fishing bug, and we live in the perfect place to foster it!