Fishing Stockton Lake
Up close, the curved wall of the dam
looks like a spill of rocks. I consider
crawling over them to a better point,
but it’s just me and my daughter here
and if I twist an ankle, she can’t carry me.
I do teeter across them later, when her cast
goes wide and tangles in the lone bush.
I search for flat surfaces, test each step
before I trust it with my weight.
Just as I start to unweave the nylon
through the weedy branches and pink clusters,
she says, “Dad, a ferret!”
After several seconds, I see it:
not a ferret, but an otter, twisting
easily through the jumbled stones.
It passes almost within reach
on some mission that doesn’t involve us,
and vanishes. I free the line.
My daughter baits the hook and makes
a perfect cast, but the fish ignore us,
and the bird wheeling overhead
on our same quest doesn’t find us
worth warning off. When a family of five
crashes down the trail to let their toddler
splash among lost lines and rusty hooks,
we pack our tackle and disappear.