The boat was motionless. The sun beamed above the tree line and bounced across the water. Dusk crept from the other side of the sky and the forest was flooding with shadows. The lake was calm. From the boat the boy cast his rod and the lure flew above the water and splashed the surface. The lure was still for a moment and then the boy trolled it through the water at a steady pace.
“Easy now,” said the man. “Reel it easy.”
The boy looked at his hands and slowed. The reel clicked every half-turn. He raised the rod’s tip as the lure trolled closer to the boat. When it was within ten feet, he reeled faster and lifted it from the water.
“A few more casts. Just a few more. You have to catch something before we leave. Try casting farther.”
The boy swung back and cast the lure. It plopped into the lake thirty feet away.
“Try letting it sit for a while,” said the man. “Let it sit. Be patient.”
From the forest a wave of silhouettes moved across the lake. The darkness neared the boat. The man turned and saw the sun, a yellow slice between the trees.
“We need to go soon.”
Suddenly the boy felt a tug. Then another. Tiny ripples sprung from the line where it met the surface.
“You have a bite,” said the man. “Be patient. Let him take it.” He shifted from one leg to the other and put his hands on the edge of the boat. “He’s just smelling it. Wait until he takes it.” The line pulled and bent the rod.
“Hook him!” the man said.
The boy yanked back the rod and the reel spun as the fish dragged the line.
“One more time. Hook him! Make sure you have him.”
The boy yanked back again.
“Reel him,” said the man. “Start slow. Reel him slow at first. You have to fight him. Don’t let him loosen up.”
The line went left to right as the fish fought and the boy continued to reel.
“Keep the rod up,” said the man. He put his hand under the rod and lifted it. “Keep it up. Keep the line tight. He’s coming close.”
The fish came to the surface near the boat. The boy lifted the rod with one hand and reached for the net. The man grabbed the net and put it out of the boy’s reach.
“Dad, I need the net.”
“Use your hand. Grab him. You don’t need this. Come on, he’s going to run.”
The boy looked at the fish as it breathed near the surface. He dipped his fingers into the water and then hesitated.
The boy took his hand out of the water. “I need the net.”
The boy lost his grip on the pole and the fish thrashed and bent the rod and drove beneath the boat and snapped the line. The end dangled above the water curled and torn.
“I’m sorry,” said the boy. “It—”
The man was silent. He turned around and ripped the motor cord. The engine sputtered and the man and the boy went back to the dock. The sun sank and the boy, standing on the planks, watched shadows drown the forest and darkness cover the lake. He stood for a moment and then followed the man who was calling for him in the distance.