Fishing was never easy for me. I found it boring and stressful, as a child. The idea of touching worms and fish grossed me out. In fact, one of my earliest childhood photographs depicts my (much younger) father tormenting his bawling son with a freshly caught perch and a devilish smile across his face. Mom offered a comic book bounty for the biggest fish caught just to get me to participate.
Dad loved to fish. It was his release. Taking us fishing – not so much. We snagged more than we fished and the old man spent more time untangling our messes than fishing. When he wasn’t fixing snags, he was griping about fixing snags. No one could gripe like my old man – not even the rookie version. He had an aptitude for it and is a veteran now that he’s in his 60s.
We were terrified of him. He was never violent but could be terrifying nonetheless. We hated coming clean on wrongdoings and there was nothing more egregious than a snagged fishing line on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. It was understood amongst us boys that you kept your mouth shut and rod straight should you find yourself in the salad. We would sit there, lines tight, until the wary eye of the seasoned angler happened to glance our way. He always knew. He ignored us sometimes but he knew. Mom was there to point it out whenever that happened. He would’ve ignored her too, had it been possible. She had a way of being heard when she wanted to be.
“I think your son has a snag.”
“Ahhh for crying out loud! Which one?”
“All of them.”
The results were always the same. You could hear his heart racing and synapses snapping up-and-down the Cheboygan River. He’d throw a fit, reel in his line, and mutter his way down the bank – arms flailing for maximum effect. He would then spend the next 10 minutes trying to free the line. If that didn’t work, he would break off and spend another 15 retying and baiting. Then there was the state of our reels, which was usually abysmal post catastrophe. That would add another 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the nest we’d constructed by not owning up to the mistake. By the time the old man had one of us straightened out, another would get fouled up. It was a never-ending cycle of comedy and despair. To fully grasp my father’s frustration, you’d have to have lived it yourself or attempted to change consecutive flats on a busy highway with temps well into the 90s. He must have been out of his mind to have subjected himself to that level of anxiety. But that is what good parents do – and I had great ones.
These memories have always made me smile. Now a right hand filled with river-kissed cork makes me grateful. I am a fisherman. It took me 20 years to get here, but I am here nonetheless. Dad knew what he was doing. He understood the bond-building elements of outdoor activity and how important planting the seed was.
Now its my turn.
If you enjoyed this post, please check out our latest Traditional Outdoors episode with Glen Blackwood of the Great Lakes Fly Fishing Company. Glen is a life long trout enthusiast and his passion for the sport is infectious. We also talk about taking kid’s fishing and share a fantastic online resource for doing so.