After spending a fun weekend celebrating King’s Day in Amsterdam, I started heading southeast towards the German border. On my way down, I stopped to spend a few days in Aalsmeer with a host from couchsurfing named Walter, who would not only show me around all the cool places to see in the area, but also introduce me to Ron Ris, the patriarch at the family-owned and -operated Dogstar Tattoo (which is also home to world class tattoo artist Jamie Ris, Ronny’s son). Very humbling visit to the tattoo shop, I tell ya.
When I arrived at Walter’s home, I was greeted by his 21-year-old son, Rajko, who with his friend Rik was sorting through some ‘stuff’ in the living room. On the sofas and coffee table were several tackle boxes, their contents spilling out onto the furniture. Upon closer inspection I could see all manner of fishing gear spread out around the boys; lines, hooks, sinkers, floats, bait, and plenty of other stuff I wouldn’t know what to call. Soon they were passing me jars of brightly coloured marble-sized balls and telling me to sniff. What looked and smelled like candy was actually fish bait, each variety designed to be most effective for catching a specific type of fish in a particular kind of environment. It was clear that these boys were serious about fishing. And when they told me how much they’d spent on their gear to date, (about 3000€ each) I started to understand just how serious they were.
When Rajko found out I was a tattoo artist, he immediately seized the opportunity to get a tattoo he’s been thinking about getting for years. He pulled a sweatshirt off the couch and showed me the logo that was embroidered on the chest. It was a Nash shirt, and the logo has a stylized carp swimming with its mouth agape. “Can you tattoo this on my arm?” asked Rajko, pointing to the logo, excitement radiating from his eyes. I smiled. Sure kid. This is your lucky day.
And a lucky day, it was! While there was still a bit of daylight, I went out with Rajko and Rik to see them in action. We went to some ponds along the edges of the Aalsmeer Flower Auction building, which is one of the biggest building in the world (its footprint covers 243 acres). Within 30 minutes, Rik caught a carp. Ten minutes after that, it was Rajko’s turn. Considering they sometimes spend entire days waiting for something to bite, I’d say this was a pretty successful night out. Both fish were reeled in with patience and grace, lifted out of the water with a large net, gently set down on a padded mat, ‘unhooked’ with great care, photographed, then carried back to the water on the pad to be smoothly lowered in and released with as little trauma as possible. If all animals could be treated with this kind of respect, we’d be living in a different world…
Rajko’s passion for fishing has been growing since he first went fishing with his father at the age of 5. His greatest fishing partner over the years, however, was his grandfather, who taught him the basics and got him hooked on the sport. In the very beginning, Rajko was angling minnows, but he soon acquired a proper fishing rod and by age 8 he’d made his first big catch, a bream fish, with his grandpa by his side. Next he moved on to fishing predators, starting with perch. At about this time, he met Rik, who was also interested in fishing. The boys started spending a lot of time together, getting more specialized and developing their skills. By age 12, Rajko had caught his first pike.
To anyone who doesn’t know much about fish (like me), reading this chronology of accomplishments might not have much of an impact. But when you find out how big these fish can get, the description of Rajko’s fishing experiences takes on a whole other meaning. The biggest perch he’s ever caught was 43cm long. The biggest pike, 88cm. The longest catfish was 1 meter long. These are big fish!
At age 15, Rajko met Nico, a man who would become the boys’ new mentor and introduce them to the world of carp fishing. Rajko started night fishing with Nico, spending entire nights out in a tent, waiting for carp to bite on one of many lines that were set up along the water’s edge. Fishing became an obsession for Rajko; he went out every weekend, no matter what the weather was like. He was hooked!
Today, the passion is as alive as ever. Rajko and Rik both have jobs in other fields (they need to work so they can buy their gear, of course) but they both dream of having the perfect job as fishing equipment testers for the big fishing gear companies. Talk about a dream job for a fishing passioné… In the meantime, they’ll continue developing their skills in various styles of fishing (fly-fishing, vertical fishing, perch fishing, surface fishing and of course carp fishing) and adding to their incredible collection of gear (Rajko has 17 fishing rods!) And there are other goals on the horizon. The boys haven’t gone deep-sea fishing yet, for instance. I can only imagine how much of a thrill that’ll be for them…
Oh, and I invited them to come to Canada. Plenty of fish there, and I’d be all too happy to take them out ice fishing!