Tag Archives: Fishing

“Master of Minnows” – Taking Huilin Fishing in Benxi

Fishing is part of being a Heath. I had a rod in my hands as soon as I could ask for one. But where we live in China the natural environmental condition is very poor. There are artificial fishing ponds, but sitting for hours in the sun hoping for a bite is no way to introduce a child to fishing. There will be plenty of opportunity to disappoint yourself when you’re older!

So these few years I had not made any great effort to take Huilin fishing. Eventually, however, he began to express an interest and so I asked my cousin-in-law Dandan to take us out when he had time. Dandan is a few years younger than me and an accomplished fisherman in the northeast Chinese style. The fish one typically catches here would be better classified as “bait” in America – they are truly that small.

But a fish is a fish, and fishing is fishing, and my son Huilin wanted to go fishing. So with thanks in our hearts, one brisk afternoon in October we piled into a borrowed minivan and drove out into the countryside. Continue reading “Master of Minnows” – Taking Huilin Fishing in Benxi

Of Oceans and Ancient Burial Grounds

“Goddamn, what a righteous stench…” the nose, olfactory observer of the world, had picked up on a shift in the breeze and brought 20 years’ memories of life at the shore flooding back into my consciousness. After more than 2 years away, the longest absence of my life by far, I was once again in sight of the ocean. I’ll share a secret with you – despite what maps and textbooks and cartographers are desperate to convince you, there is only one ocean. It spans the world over, setting out from one edge can take the determined voyager to any other, and its mud flats at low tide have a deliriously powerful stink.

Brine, rotting sealife, and natural gas from organic decomposition in the layers upon layers of silt all combine to create a wonderfully powerful malodor. Driving the 1,250 miles home from Virginia to Florida during my college years, the highlight of the trip was always that first nostril-quivering blast of salty decay as I neared the marshlands of eastern Georgia. It was then that I knew I was getting close, and despite another 500 miles ahead of me, the rest of the trip would always fly by.

Last weekend found me in Beihai – literally “north sea” – a small fishing community several hours SSE of Shenyang, and I was walking out to the rough spit of breakwater the locals proudly called a wharf to inspect the village fishing fleet.

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There are two kinds of fisherman, those who fish for sport and those who fish for life. We are not the same. These old dogs were the latter. I and my wife, led by our hosts – distant relatives many of whom she was meeting for the first time – carefully picked our way past rude brick huts, impromptu garbage dumps, and derelict vessels towards a small but vibrant scene: it was late afternoon and the fishermen were returning with their catch.

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May Day in Benxi

May Day Holiday Plan A – Gaizhou!

A little late writing this one up, but I’ve been very busy – which will be explained in a subsequent journal entry. Originally for the May Day holiday I was supposed to go to Gaizhou (盖州, Gàizhōu) with my maternal grandfather-in-law. He’s getting up in years and hasn’t seen his hometown in decades. He also knows that I’m all about the coastal lifestyle and don’t enjoy being landlocked here in Shenyang one bit. So we three – grandfather, mother, and me – made grand plans to go to Gaizhou and go fishing and eat seafood until our stomachs exploded.

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The only problem was Gaizhou is a good 3~4 hours away on the train and when the appointed day was on the morrow, Maternal Grandfather-in-Law wasn’t feeling up to the arduous trip. Taking a train anywhere in China is an adventure in its own right, but to do so on a crowded holiday for 4 hours plus queue times at his age just seemed to be a little to much. So we changed plans! Instead, I was to go to Benxi and we were all to go fishing – huzzah!

May Day Holiday Plan A Plan B – Fishing in Benxi!

So off I went to Benxi with my mother-in-law. The train was packed and we had ‘standing tickets’ rather than assigned seats, but we squeezed into a car with sleeping berths and I soon found an unoccupied top bunk and snoozed away most of the 45 minute rumble there. We were met at the station by Dajiu (literally ‘big maternal uncle’) who regretfully informed us that the water temperature up here in the mountains was still a little too cold for the fish to shake off their wintertime metabolism and start feeding. The fishing trip was scratched. Instead, he had borrowed a minivan and we were going to take a trip through the Benxi countryside – huzzah?

May Day Holiday Plan A Plan B Plan C – Scenic Tour in the Benxi Countryside!

Our first destination was Ping Ding mountain, located on the edge of the city. It’s one of those things where you’ve seen it a million times and always said to yourself “one day I’ll climb that…” Well, May Day was the day, except we drove it – ha. According to the massacred English on the park sign, Ping Ding mountain is a nature reserve and used as an outpost both by Japanese and Chinese forces at different times during the War of Resistance. The ruins of the fortifications amount to little more than a few low stone walls at this point, but it’s interesting to stand among them and try and figure out why on earth anyone would ever feel the need to guard Benxi.

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4AM Fishing

So I ran into Kazu in the halls of AP House Thursday night around 11pm or so… and to make a long story short he breathlessly invited me to go fishing the following morning at an absurd 4am.

What sort of advantages Kazu seeks to earn by departing at such unearthly hours are unbeknownst to me. Perhaps he thinks, in that twisted mind of his, that if we arrive early enough we’d actually be able to simply pick the bass up out of the water, such would be the depth of their slumber.

Who knows… In any case, never one to pass up an opportunity to abandon work and embrace the nirvana of watery pursuits, I accepted.

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Hardcore, or Just Plain Stupid

Today was, to sum up in one single word, brutal. The plan was to wake at 5am and set off for a morning fishing trip. At 5am, after only 3 hours of sleep, I awoke to find a driving rain, temps in the low 40s, and 20mph winds outside my window. Seriously disappointed, I staggered down to Kazu’s room and left him a note on his white board (I was supposed to wake him…), then went upstairs and collapsed back into bed. The reason for our early departure was that we both had to be back for a dorm-wide dodgeball tournament at 1.

Six hours later I rolled out of bed and settled into my computer chair to go through the usual morning routine of email and checking the news. Not five minutes later Kazu shows up at my door, telling me that dodgeball was canceled because of the rain, and suggesting we go now. I hadn’t even bothered to look out my window when I got up–it had become a beautiful day! So after some hastily-made plans we agreed to book it and hit the road in 15 minutes.

Continue reading Hardcore, or Just Plain Stupid

Bass Fishing in Japan

Today was my first bass fishing trip in Japan, and a memorable one at that. Kazu, one of the RAs in my building, is a fishing addict. Once he found out I also share the vice, it wasn’t a question of if, but only of when. Well, for better or for worse, “when” turned out to be 5am this morning. As I waited for Kazu to bring his car from the lot, it was obvious that only four hours of sleep takes its toll on a man.

This is my "not really happy to be here" face.
This is my “not really happy to be here” face.

After 45min of winding roads, hair pin turns, and the gas pedal firmly mashed to the floorboards of his Honda Civic, Kazu pulled onto a small side road that fizzled out in front of a creek and pronounced us there. In the predawn twilight we bushwhacked through 30min of weeds and giant spider webs before finally arriving at the rocky shores of a large impoundment.

There are worse things in life than watching a sunrise with a fishing rod in your hand next to a glassy lake!
There are worse things in life than watching a sunrise with a fishing rod in your hand next to a glassy lake!

Continue reading Bass Fishing in Japan