Transtibial Prosthesis? What Transtibial Prosthesis? 

Lily Finch

© Copyright 2023 by Lily Finch

Photo by Richard Loller, 2016.
Photo by Richard Loller, 2016.

My uncle unpacks his choppy-lake silver rod, reel, and five-weight line that holds a pattern when he casts: a Griffith's Gnat, dressed specifically to attract fish as it sinks into deep hollows cast from the boat. He heads to the gravel bar at his private hole. The change in depth allows the line to stretch out, letting the loops fall gently: It's not long before he feels a jolt, a snag with a run, and then the strike that bites back against his concentrated reeling.

The rod pulls hard to the right; the line sounds like 'bzzt,' ripping further out. Uncle Bob thought. He plays with tension on the line, lets it out, then back in. The fish tires first in their game of give and take.

He releases all but three fish: The keepers—fifteen inches long, slender, and iridescent pink, with a red line down the silvery sides. A greenish tinge—all had greyish-unripe olive underbellies contrasting the black spots on the dark blue of their backs, the most valiant of foes.

The slimy, clear-eyed, cold-blooded vertebrates have no odour. Uncle Bob’s gutting and snipping off the heads and tails were as natural to him as a knife cutting through butter. He stores the fish in a cooler bag inside the boat: tonight's dinner for the entire family. Thrilled with the filets, he leaves the fish heads and tails on the rocks for turtles or birds.

Pleased with his catches of the day, his wife Mary set out to batter and fry the fish. There were enough for two pieces each. There was nothing like fresh fish from the lake. As soon as he ate and had his tea, Uncle Bob headed to bed: The fireflies danced in the pitch-black night sky, lighting up like a Christmas tree with lights blinking on a two-three second timer.

On for two and then off for two. And then on for two and then out for two for a whole three seconds. By the time Uncle Bob was in the land of slumber, those fireflies had found their mates and their lights were out for good.

5:30 am came early; Uncle Bob wanted to hit the placidity of the lake as early as he could, to catch those fish feeding at the surface on the swimming bugs all around the lake's periphery.


Wendy's annual vacations were not lost on her when it came to Uncle Bob and his fishing; Wendy would see Uncle Bob go out in his boat with one of his boys or Uncle Dode and always return with fish. According to Uncle Bob, the net was the star performer pulling the fish into the boat to remove the hook from their mouths. Wendy listened every year, wondering when her chance would come to experience some of the fishing excitement Uncle Bob spoke of when fishing.
For years the cottage was where anything went, from waterskiing to cliff jumping, and afternoon boat tours were Wendy's favourite one-time excursions at the cottage in the summertime.

But this year, the men were yacking it up about the derby going on for prizes. The most gigantic small-mouthed and large-mouthed bass caught out of one of the five lakes marked on the derby map would win the derby: People came with boats and hi-tech fishing gear from all over, hoping to win the competition.

Repeatedly Wendy watched the men leave to fish early in the morning only to return with meal fish but not competition fish. Then she would watch the same men go back out the same evening to fish for the winner some more. It was definitely the kind of behaviour of dedicated fishermen, fraught with clothing, gear and boats, but regardless, so far, for Uncle Bob and the boys; it was not working.

Yet they repeated the pattern daily, evening after evening, hoping that one day might pay out large, much like a gambler waiting for his cards to payout.

Wendy was nine. She did what the other kids did at the cottage, but nobody noticed her that much since they were all older and had their own interests. So, it wasn't long before everyone—except for Wendy and Robbie—was off somewhere sleeping, fishing, or elsewhere with other kids from around who were their age.

Wendy loved fishing but was a talkaholic, busy, and an ADHD child without medication or guidance. Needless to say, Uncle Bob shooed her away from fishing with him since he liked his fishing to be peaceful and serene.

Determination filled her with anger and sadness, which she harnassed for the best path for her. First, Wendy found a selection of fishing rods in the boathouse. Wendy strictly chose the rod because she saw it had a lure on its line, and she liked how it looked. She didn't have to use someone's lures from the tackle boxes because she would be frightened about what would happen if they fell off or the fish took them away.

Wendy had seen her uncle talking to his son about his technique for using his lures in the water when he ran out of live bait. Wendy didn't know how that came to her or why she even had it in her repertoire to pull from, but she felt the pull of a fish at the end of her line.

Bracing for a fight, she called out, "HELP! I think I've got something!" Her younger cousin was watching as he hopped around as he knew it was a big fish. He hollered: Oh boy! It's a doozy!"

Despite seeing what to do when a person catches a fish and having heard her Uncles talk about it, she struggled with every step after she felt the first quick tug on her line. Wendy's pulse quickened, and sweat formed on her brow and ran down her back. Call it instinct, luck or divine intervention, but Wendy's stars aligned that day for her for some reason.

Wendy, an ambitious twelve-year-old niece—who never got the opportunity to fish where she lived—saw the magic in the jumpy, erratic fishing pole as a fish hooked onto the other end of the line and felt the adrenaline rush. Right when she first felt the tug, she saw the bend in her rod as the top of the line moved toward that first snag, the fish directing the line away from the boat.

Indicating to the unsuspecting young girl, Wendy, that the struggle was real. This fight was going to be the fight of a lifetime. She fought for recognition as much as the fish fought for its life.

She cried out, "Oh my god! It's a fish! On my line!" The bite on the line sent a jolt through the pole and into her hands. She almost lost her step. She would later write in her diary: I imagined we were one unit once I felt that jolt supercharging me to invite the fish to accompany me, using my forefinger to entice it. It appeared energetically, enthused about receiving my request to join me. It was the first time I totally forgot about my TP. It was insane once I realized I had done this while fighting with a fish. I wondered about other sports and my leg: would that be the case for those sports too?

Feeling her muscles flex as she drew on the line while reeling. Letting it out, reeling in, playing a tug-of-war game with her feisty opponent. The fish, indeed in trauma mode by now in the time spent back and forth on the fishing line, twisted and curved its body frantically. Swimming against hope, realizing its life was at stake.

Wendy's excitement and naivety about how difficult it was to reel in a fish from atop the dock without assistance and on her transtibial prosthesis left leg. Wendy was mid-fishing when she realized she was fishing without using any particular reel of significance or line of any specific weight—or she thought.

She suddenly wondered: am I working so hard just to discover, in the end, that the fish is gonna break the line or wiggle off the hook before I can get it out of the water? She forgot all about her leg and her transtibial prosthesis. She was engrossed in catching a fish because she had drive and determination. She was not a quitter, and her leg was not a barrier to her success.

Battling near muscle exhaustion, she quickly turned the reel, bringing the line tightly in but simultaneously allowing for some line release. Trying to imitate what she had only heard about what her Uncles had done when they caught fish.

Rob, meanwhile, had run into the boathouse and fetched a net. He lay faced down on the deck and stretched his arms as far as possible to net the fish. According to her Uncle Bob, one of the largest torpedo-shaped smallmouth basses that lived in the lake's dark waters—on the end of her line, as she reeled it in: Wendy bellowed in a half squeal with excitement and astonishment. Once he captured it in the net, Robbie placed it at her feet. Wendy put enough water in the bucket for the fish; then called Uncle Bob.

"Dad, Wendy's got a big one on her line! We need your help to take it off the hook. It's not going to stay in the bucket, I don't think." The second call to the cottage above brought attention to the dock below. The children's exhilaration had risen to the ears of the adults up top, who were now on the balcony to see what all the fuss was about.

Wendy wondered what this little beggar ate if it was that strong. I am so much larger, and it gave me a run for my money; how was that possible? The sweat drenched my body, and the fish looked cool as a cucumber. I watched many fishing shows, and they never showed fish fighting like that!"

But after the fish gave Wendy what was its last-ditch effort to remain free to roam the underwater side of the lake. Wendy pulled back on the rod and reeled like crazy, meeting with resistance at every turn. The fish came forward. The fish veered to its left, and Wendy reached right, allowing the fish to believe it was free. She didn't have time to smile or relax. Her ADHD seemingly disappeared since she had the challenge to meet.

She imagined the fish having nerves—like almost every living creature—as she looked at it inside the pail on the dock. Their fight with all their mighty resistance and full power while facing fishermen's lures and nets isn't just an automatic response.

Most likely, a conscious reaction to their pain when a hook pierces their lips, jaws, or body. And that's when it dawned on Wendy that hooked fish endure physical pain and terror! As Wendy removed the mighty fighter from its natural environment, she knew it would suffocate if it stayed too long out of water. The best-tasting fish dinners were those when they killed the fish before filleting.

Wendy looked down at it. She moved from foot to transtibial prosthesis foot, jumping, bouncing, and getting fidgety. Wendy squealed high-pitched sounds. She looked into the pail to be sure the fish remained there. Her disbelief grew, and Wendy stayed skeptical that the fish would still be there later. How could she have done something so well, and everyone missed it? She wondered.

That evening Wendy thought more about the fish. Suddenly Wendy visualized what she'd experience if she were trapped underwater, and the fish snagged her with a hook and net. Pulling her under as she fought to remain in the air. But it got ridiculous, so Wendy began to think about how many fights it had within it to keep itself in its natural habitat.

She extrapolated that to humans. Wendy thought philosophically about why humans fought world wars: Was it to keep themselves in their natural habitats too? Then she thought about her predicament with her transtibial prosthesis. It was a fight for Wendy then too. Her nerves were all overstimulated, and she fought for her life.

She related to the fish. But she wanted to win and show Uncle Bob the size of the fish she caught with Rob. Putting it back into a fish perspective, she ripped the smallmouth bass out of its natural habitat to win a derby and eat: Yes, Wendy ate it too!

But even if she decided not to, there were many other people in the cottage who would have since the cottagers were all fish-eating people. She did say, "There was some satisfaction in knowing that I didn't fish just for the sake of winning a derby."

Her uncle would tell her years after he sent her the trophy that she was an impressive girl who deserved the award. Wendy remembers that more than eating the damn fish!

Wendy had always dreamed of fishing with her uncles and having an enjoyable time with them. Some things were never meant to be. Wendy proved anyone with a netter, which she found in her cousin Robbie could catch a fish.

The fact that she had a transtibial prosthesis had no bearing on whether she could catch a winning fish. None of this story would've happened if she had to go it alone.

The story would have been so different: Fish? What M*T%$R%U@K&N% fish? And the plot? Hmmm, it'd be something to do with Wendy and Rob. After all, she was so much bigger than him. perhaps they would remain children forever?

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