The trout plopped into the boat seemingly from nowhere, landing in the prow, writhing until she was sitting on her tail, looking at him with a beady eye.
'You've got to stop this, you know. We're fed up with being decimated and hurt. Sometimes you throw us back, injured. Other times you take us away. Heaven knows what you do with those you steal.'
Surprised, Ed fell onto his seat. 'We eat you,' he said. 'You taste nice on a grill. It's as simple as that.'
'Aha! And you think that's okay? To destroy communities? To deceive honest fish who have done nothing wrong?' She twitched a fin and he glanced at the baited hook in his hand. 'How would you feel if someone did that to one of your loved ones? You don't think fish have got feelings, do you?' She flopped onto her side and thrummed the deck with her tail.
He stared at her, not quite knowing what to do. In all his years of fishing on this lake, he had never experienced anything so bizarre. He reached for his hip flask, unscrewed the cap and took a long swig. The trout stared at him accusingly.
Something bumped against the hull. The boat rocked so brandy spilled onto his chin.
'Dad? Are you okay?'
Ed blinked and looked around him. Jinny's ruddy face was leaning over the gunwale, smiling and concerned at the same time.
'You've been out here for ages. Mum and I were worried.' She threw him a rope. 'Tie this to the bathtub. I'll tow you home.'
He fumbled with the line and dropped it. Jinny had to help him.
'It's okay, Dad. I'll look after you.'
'The trout. Chuck that trout back into the water.'
'What trout, Dad? There isn't one.'
'Forward. It's huge. You can't miss it.' He spread his arms. 'It's this big.'
'Hardly likely. You left your tackle behind. Anyway, you can tell me all about it when we're at home.' Chuckling, she turned away.
Ed stared at the prow, at the trout who was blowing him kisses, then Jinny started her outboard motor and the fish disappeared beneath a cloud of pale smoke.
By the time they reached shore, he had forgotten about her. Jinny looked everywhere, but the only thing she could find was an abandoned fish-hook which caught the side of her hand and cost her a trip to the hospital to have it removed.