Have you ever heard the saying "yuh mouth swell up like a chuff chuff?" Last week Tuesday, I came face to face with a chuff chuff.
Tuesday evening, the sun was about to set and the waves of the Manzanilla/Mayaro coastline crashed against the shoreline as if to warn sea-bathers that it was time to go home.
The Ortoire river was calm though, despite minor ripples. At the river mouth, a mother and young boy sat comfortably with a man further in the distance. Fishing was the order of the day. The man threw his line and waited patiently for a tug while the woman gave the boy a tutorial in fishing. "Okay, Josiah, this is how you attach the bait. No, not so, so. Okay that's good. Then reel inwards like this and then reel outwards and throw out the line. Watch me..." she beckoned.
Thump! The line went out into the river and the cork/sinker sank below. The boy became ecstatic while the woman smiled admiringly. They sat there for a while and I took the quiet moment to approach the woman. I didn't know much about fishing, just that you are supposed to be quiet while doing the sport as my grandfather advised (he used to fish for fun and not for fish as he never caught anything much). "Should I whisper so as not to scare the fish?" I asked her. "No it's okay. They say that river fish don't like noise but fishes from the sea are not bothered by it. After all, the waves making more noise than you," she informed.
I introduced myself and my intention as I couldn't pass up the opportunity to interview a female fishing mom. I told her that I was in the background eavesdropping on the instructions she was imparting to the young boy. "Ha, ha, ha. He is Josiah, my five-year-old son and the man across there is my husband. Girl, you will believe this is the first day of my vacation? Imagine I rush to go fishing instead of to the mall or something else!" she says laughing.
All this time Josiah was holding the line, not once distracted by our conversation. Her name is Shellyann Charles and she works as a clerk at the Ministry of Agriculture in Rio Claro, not too far from where she lives. "When school on vacation I can't wait to take my own vacation time to come home and spend time with my children," the mother of two (she had a two- year-old daughter as well) declared.
She continued, "I grew up the long time way where every school holidays my family would do fun things together. We weren't rich and our pleasures were simple. My father taught me how to fish. We used to do that a lot. My sister could fish too. That is why I here teaching my son!" "Mummy!" We were interrupted by Josiah's scream. "Ah ketch something!" he cried. With that Charles grabbed hold of the rod and begun reeling in. I held my breath; I couldn't wait to see what they caught. Charles' husband rushed across as well and photographer, Micheal Bruce pulled out his camera in anticipation of... "Whey...Steups!" exclaimed Charles. A pretty little leopard coloured fish struggled on the line before us. The experienced fishing mom/agricultural clerk from Rio Claro opened the mouth of the fish, dislodged it from the hook and tossed it onto the grass. Instantly, the fish started to swell like a balloon. "That is a chuff chuff. When we catch that we just throw it away. We don't eat it and it's sickening when you catch one because when you feel the pull you think you really catch 'something' and bam! You realise it's a chuff chuff!" she explained. Josiah seemed disappointed but she consoled him. "Come let's try again". She attached new bait onto the line, going through the same routine as before.
"My father used to catch guabine and coscorob. This is actually the first time I fishing in the sea, or river mouth rather. I usually fish in the river." "What's the difference between fishing in the river and the sea?" I asked. "In the river you could see your cork or sinker sink but not in the sea," the 29-year-old answered.
Visions of sharks and catfish floated in my mind. "What is your best catch so far?" I asked once more. Her face lit up and she beamed, "The biggest fish I ever caught was a Gran Dicite. That was my big fishing trophy moment. I felt like a champion; accomplished. We went down the islands to fish that time. I love going down the islands to fish!" she exclaimed. "Tell them how good you does cook the fish you catch nah," stated her husband from his far off fishing spot. Charles blushed modestly. "Cooking fish is like cooking anything else. I like to cook but I love to fish!" The pleasant woman then went into reflective mode. "You know we really need to bring back the old time parenting traditions. Times when parents used to spend real quality time with their children and teach them tools for life. Now as soon as the vacation come around parents nowadays quick to cart their children off to summer camp, nothing wrong with that but you can't overdo it" she said. We discussed the fact that some parents rather take vacation for Carnival fetes and to play mas rather during to spend time with their children for the August school holidays.
"I want to grow my children up with the values I grow up with. I want to ensure that when they grow up they have a solid foundation. I have been a clerk for many years at the Ministry, I am not a millionaire and we don't vacation in Disney World but you see these simple things like beach limes and fishing, we spend a lot of quality family time that way!"
Josiah was becoming impatient as nothing was taking his bait so I got the cue that we had to wrap up the interview. Before she said goodbye and I said good luck (her family didn't catch anything but the chuff chuff so far), Charles left me with these parting words. "You know, when you think about it, fishing somewhat like parenting. In both things you have to love and enjoy what you do, you have to come up with your own strategies, apply what you learned from past experiences as a child and finally, and most importantly, you must have patience otherwise you will get frustrated with every chuff chuff moment and you give up before your biggest and best catch!"
From the Editor—
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