Teaching a man to fish

2015-05-13 10:32

Fishing for kob on the reefs at Strand can come with its fair share of boredom, especially when the sun is rising quicker than you can say p-e-r-s-p-i-r-a-t-i-o-n. With a neatly tied chokka, fisherman’s lingo for squid, at the end of my line and no fish in sight my eyes usually start to wonder, often admiring the breathing ocean rupture against the rocks.

About three weeks ago it was one such day, no fish, except my dead chokka in the water, and a few of us anticipating fools along the shore, standing with rod against the groin, proud, like modern day hunters.

As my eyes scanned the horizon for a glimmer of hope a gentleman, with a forgotten Scandinavian accent sliding through his teeth, appeared next to me on the beach mumbling a question, “Hav you gaught anything yet?.  “Nope,” I instinctively grunted, hoping my attitude would force him to leave before he could ask me for money. That was the end of the conversation. He looked homeless by choice, as if he had once been a backpacker and had decided he would trade the icy streets of home for the dusty streets of the Helderberg.

Needless to say he didn’t stick around long enough for me to ignore him any further and slowly turned around, walked away and made his way down the beach. He stopped at every fisherman along the way, most giving him the same reaction I did. Until, about 100 metres from me was a gentleman with a neatly arranged tackle box station laid atop the sand. He had a rod in one hand and a cigarette in the other. His cowboy shirt was tucked into his PT shorts which sported tree trunks for legs. The Scandinavian fella stopped next to this gentleman and it seemed, from where I was standing, that the two immediately struck up a conversation. They were chatting joyously to the point where my inquisitiveness had completely veered from my dead bait. I reeled in and moved a little closer.

After a few short minutes the gentleman put out his cigarette, pushed his rod into the ground and kitted out another rod. He methodically tied the bait to the hook and attached the sinker to an alternate line. He then handed it over to the Scandinavian wanderer. The drifter seemed pleased and even though he didn't know how to cast or put on his own bait he swung the rig keenly into the calm bay in front of us. It was humbling to watch, and embarrassing at the same time. The two men fished together the whole day. The gentleman patiently passing over his knowledge.  Then as evening peered over the False Bay mountains the gentleman bid the Scandinavian man farewell, leaving him with a parting gift – the fishing rod and tackle box. The wanderer gave his teacher a hug in thanks. By that time I had gone up to my flat and told my girlfriend the story. We watched this unfold from the 6th floor. The Scandinavian man continued to fish, heartbreakingly into the late evening, not catching anything under our watchful eyes.

In the weeks that passed I continued to fish the reefs, thinking about the giver and the receiver often, wandering if he had sold the rod for food in the end as I had not seen him since. Then, out of nowhere, yesterday, the Scandinavian nomad, still dressed in his assuming leather boots, black jacket and suit pants, strolled onto the beach with his recently acquired fishing rod and tackle box. I was not sure at first if it really was him, I rushed for the binoculars only to confirm that indeed, it was. Armed with his modern day bow and arrow he walked to the frontier and with a weird looking cast whipped his bait into the water.

He again spent the whole day fishing. As I watched him cast his bait into the water time and time again I kept thinking about the magnitude of the random act of kindness that preceded this day. Equipping a man in need with the knowledge and the tools to move forward. It was not me, the arrogant fisherman on the beach that truly learnt anything from this personification of an old English proverb, it was the two gentleman, beautifully locked in a world void of judgement, open to change, that walked out of this better. It is these two men, unknowingly, that are going to change the world, and it is up to us to take note.

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