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A fish is a catch once it’s in the boat. It’s a mistake to shout that you’ve hooked it when it has only snapped at the bait and you feel its weight bouncing in the hand that holds the line. A fish is a catch only when it’s on board. You have to pull it up swiftly from the depths with a gentle, even movement, and without jerking. Otherwise you’ll lose it. You mustn’t get excited when you feel it thrashing below and it seems heaven only knows how big, judging by the force it exerts to extricate the hook and bait from its body.
Nicola taught me how to fish. The boat wasn’t his, it was Uncle’s, my uncle. Nicolas used it year-round, but when the weather was mild he was my uncle’s sailor on Sundays and during summer holidays. At night he went out with a lantern and fished for cuttlefish, a kind of squid, to make bait for the tip of the hook.