How an ordinary passion rescued a Nigerian Kid
How Fishing and Hunting Changed My Life
Adventures Like Mine can Keep you mentally Alert and Physically Fit! It all started as a mild argument, we were taking shelter under a big Palm tree (and drinking fresh palm wine) as the torturous heat of the Tropical sun had become unbearable at the open fresh water river where
we were fishing and my two fishing partners dared me to open up on my escapades in the fishing and hunting arena. I was always the one catching the big ones and they did not believe it was natural, expertise or share luck. Well, to disabuse their minds I decided to do the needful:
I hope those whose hobby is fishing will benefit from my life story.
I am from a completely different background – Geographically, Culturally and Socially - NIGERIA. So as a source of information about how others live, my story will suffice. I consider myself a fishing addict, freak, maniac or any such adjective denoting one’s passion. Although I’m not in it for commercial gains, I still cannot deny the fact that fishing actually sustained me and my
family in my teens - well you wouldn't call a 12 year old a teenager would you?. “How?” one might ask. Well, you see my father was then incarcerated in a maximum security prison awaiting execution following a military coup in my country in which the Head of State, whose driver my father was, got assassinated in an attempted coup. Controversy arose as to why he was not the one that died along with the HOS. My father was then sent to the notorious Kirikiri maximum security prison, taunted to be a reminiscence of Mandela’s Robben Island prison, in Nigeria, where he spent about a year awaiting execution (not trial). As a result feeding became a nightmare for the family. I was only 12 years old and barely literate. My mother, God bless her departed soul, was an illiterate with no skills but strong willed and full of faith in God and wisdom. Armed with these attributes, my mother was able to take care of us, myself and my two younger sisters aged 10 and 8 my 15 years old brother was away in the boarding school. As the going got tough I dropped out of elementary school to take up the role of ‘the man of the house’.
We would till the land to subsist but still there was the issue of food ingredients or
groceries. This was where my only option, Fishing and Hunting, came into play.
As a child I was taught how to fish and hunt by my elder brother whose hobby was fishing ...still is. He would take me along to the river during the school holidays and prepare a bamboo rod from the forest, fasten the line, sinker, hook and strike indicator for me and we would catch fish for the evening meal. Sometimes we would even dry some of the fish for future consumption. As a non-commissioned officer in the Army, my father’s salary was barely enough to sustain the family and pay our school fees, even when he was a free man, so we complemented with the fish we caught. We never sold any excess catch as my brother would rather give it away to our neightbours than sell it for money - he detested giving people the impression that we were poor.
The first time I made little money out of fishing was when I sold off my own and my brother’s fishing kits to our neighbour, as the going got tougher when my father was in the imprison, like I mentioned earlier, and my elder brother had been sent to boarding school in faraway Lagos (our
Federal capital city then). Near our farm was a stream where we used to fetch drinking water and also wash off dirt after the day’s work. It then occurred to me that if I had fishing equipment I could try out at the stream and see if there’s fish there. Since I had already sold our fishing kits to our neighbour, I decided to borrow it from him. He was willing to give it to me for a week on condition that I shared my catch with him 50-50 every day. I had no choice, so I agreed and took it along to the farm the next day. I wanted to try out some of the fishing tricks that my brother had taught me, and who knows? “I might even provide fish for the family”, I thought.
My first day in the stream was a memorable one. When I told my mum I wanted to remain behind and try the stream for fish, when we were supposed to be going home, there was the initial protest before I was allowed, and that was after I had promised to be careful. So armed with the fishing rod, hooks etc and my catapult (for hunting) I went down to the stream in search of bait or lure. We usually used earth worms, Maggots, Grasshoppers etc as bait/lure, some people used raw meat – a luxury we could not afford- we never had anything like synthetic fish lure – couldn’t afford it even if it was in the market. I was able to dig out some worms at the bank of the stream and quickly get down to business. My first catch was a tilapia that weighed close to 400gm. This single catch gave me the courage and confidence to forge ahead. By the time I decided it was quitting time I had caught seven catfish each weighing between 1 and 1.2kg! I also caught other varieties of Trout that day. On my arrival home my neighbour, the owner of the fishing equipment, was waiting impatiently to collect his share as agreed. Now I might be only 12 years old, but I was not stupid. On my way home I, instinctively, hid a portion of the fish (up to 50%) in an uncompleted building just a few yards before our house. So what I declared was half of what I actually caught, yet my neighbour was happy and satisfied when I gave him his share because he had enough to last his family of four for two days! My mother too was not left behind in the surprise race, but her utter bewilderment came when I stepped outside the house, after our neighbour had left grinning from ear to ear, and brought in twice the quantity I gave our neighbour. It was all she could do to hold back the tears. I didn’t wait for my mother to dry her tears before I dashed out with some of the fish to the local market and, within a few hours, came back with enough money to buy us food stuff for a couple of days! Now that was the first real fish money I earned. I handed over the money to my mother who in her own wisdom also went to the local market and returned with two complete sets of fishing kits except, of course, the rod which could be cut anywhere in the nearby forest. Now this never occurred to me despite the fact that I had made enough money to buy more than ten times the ones I had borrowed from my neighbour.
The following morning, on my way to the farm, I went to my neighbour’s house and dropped his fishing equipment with his wife as he was said to have gone to the farm. Since the work at the farm was mainly weeding, my mother allowed me to go right ahead and launch my new fishing equipment, which I couldn’t wait to do. I went right down to the stream, cut two rods (I usually fished with two rods, still do), tied the line, sink and hooks and then got down to business.
When I arrived home later in the evening anxious and eager to show my mum the day’s catch, somebody was already there waiting to share from it! I can hardly forget the expression of bewilderment that shone on his face when my neighbour saw what I had brought home. I not only brought more than 40kg of fish, I also brought one Water Monitor (which our people also call Alligator) and two Squirrels all shot with my catapult. It took me twice the normal time to reach home that day because of the weigh that I had to carry. Oh by the way, my neighbour’s anxiety was because he now believed that he was going to have enough fish to sell and make some money! Apparently his wife did not remember to inform him that I had earlier that morning severed our deal by returning his fishing equipment. He was so engrossed in his excitement that he did not even notice that the fishing equipment I was holding were brand new. And, boy did he almost faint when he realized that he was not entitled to any portion of it. I can’t actually tell what happened when he went home, but I can tell you for sure that I heard the poor woman (his wife) wailing and yelling and had to rescue her by sending my younger sister to give them a sizable amount of fish , more than they got the previous day. Since we already had enough fish for domestic consumption, we sold everything and made a fortune – by our standard though. I mean for a family which could hardly feed twice a day, that was fortune.
From that day my neighbour decided to tag along with me to the stream, but still even he, old as he was, had to learn one or two fishing tricks from me. With money that was coming in, I decided to go back to school, stop my mum from going to the farm, instead we paid labourers to do it for us while my mum acquired a new carrier .. frying fish in front of the house for sale to the public. She’s long gone now but she’s still fondly referred to as Ladi mai kifi (meaning, Ladi the fish seller). I also took care of my younger ones, paid for my examination and graduated from the elementary school. Even when I went to secondary school (junior high) I still went to the rivers, streams and some dams around to catch fish both for consumption and for cash whenever I was around on holidays. I was in form one when my father was released at the instance of the widow of the assassinated Head Of State who knew his innocence and rescued him.
I believe that knowing my background would go a long way in making you understanding more of what I will be discussing further. If you like fishing just stick with me and I will introduce you to fishing styles invented by me. Although I quit selling fish after my graduation from school, as a banker I still created time to go fishing until I left the banking industry and setup my own business. Now I have enough time to always try new fishing tricks which usually pay off.
It should be understood that I never cast nets or set traps in fishing, that is for professional commercial fishermen, because there’s no fun in it. More fun is derivable from fresh water angling with rod, line, sinker and hook (aka. Fly-fishing), period! We even have our own parlance for the sport, which is intended to differentiate us from fishermen who cast nets and set fish traps, it is called Hooking because we use only hooks, line, sinker and rod or pole. I consider fishing and hunting as a passion that I cannot do away with, because I grew into it and consider the river homier than my bed room.
As a child we were not allowed to carry any firearms, even the elderly were prohibited, government law. But how can you be in the stream or river surrounded by wild animals and reptiles infested forests without some kind of protection? Well like the American Indians in Montana and other wild west regions of old, we had our Bows and Arrows solely prepared by ourselves. It was very easy to prepare and did not cost a penny! We rubbed some poisonous but not deadly plant jellies around the tips of the arrows, this would put any animal to sleep for about 15 to 30 minutes (enough time for you to slice its throat depending on how dangerous it was). We also had catapult for shooting smaller animals and birds. Our hunting weapons complemented our fishing expedition as we could easily kill wild animals and reptiles and sell whenever fishing did not yield much. So in the absence of good fish catch or larger animals, I always turned up with something using my catapult or bow and arrows. I was a marksman with hunting weapons because I could bring down a flying quail with one shot using either my catapult or bow and arrow .. still can.
Next I am going to unveil some of my jungle and fishing tricks, my close shave with death and how I fought my way to safety in an Indiana Jones style and how my passion has kept me alert, healthy and strong willed. You will also learn the curative effect of fishing/hooking and gaming. I also will mention the George Bush angle.