The early twilight of a new day barely lets you see anything and we cruise down the road. From my vantage point I can’t really make out much but the bait and tackle shop looms in the distance and the welcoming lights allow me to see a little of where I am. An old shack of a building with hissing lights and a green painted screen door with a small rope loop for a handle, greets us like an old friend. As we walk in the smell of salt water and the hum of aerators for the live bait assault my senses. The low ceiling is covered in all sorts of rods, nets, taxidermy of those trophies the owner has caught. Racks of hooks and lures and small cubby holes filled with lead and pre-made rigs line the walls and fill the floor. A few old timers stand around the counter discussing the bite and who caught the last REAL fish. I make a bee-line to the cooler and grab an ice cold YooHoo and some chocolate donuts, no fishing trip can start this early and end up right without YooHoo and chocolate donuts. We get our bait and a quick fishing report on what is biting and where and we are back on the road. The sun starts to peek over the horizon and while a climb around on the rocks balancing my YooHoo and donuts the first line sings out to start the fishing. The year is 1975 and this is usually how my weekends start with my dad.
I remember fondly these early morning forays to the Long Island Sound with my Dad chasing Stripers and blues and anything else that would bite a hook. He was in the Navy and was deployed a lot of the time but when he was home, after the honey do’s that piled up on the last cruise were done, it was time to fish. My Dad taught me how to fish, he taught me how to hunt, how to tie knots, sharpen a knife, make bottom rigs, and everything else required to catch fish. Always with conservation in mind, he was always quick to tell me to throw the small ones back to grow up while people around us filled buckets and coolers with small fish. We would spend hours fishing off the beach or a fishing pier, or off rock jetties and if we got lucky a friends boat. Fresh water or salt water, it didn’t matter, my Dad is the consummate fisherman. He has fished around the world, caught giant fish and even got skunked by me on a small lake in Vermont while I hauled in perch after perch and all he could do was bait my hook and pull fish off my line. Anytime I have a question about fishing Dad has the answer, especially if it is how to cook up my catch. I am one of the luckiest men in the world. I have a Dad who taught me how to fish and more importantly to enjoy fishing. Even when the skunk followed us to the water or all we caught were small fish not worth taking home, he was always quick to point out the beauty of the water, how the tides worked, currents, when the fish bite best, and everything else that make a fishing trip a great time no matter how good the catching is. Dad doesn’t fish as much now; he’ll throw a line in the pond when he visits and still enjoy it like he was in the fighting chair on the Pacific side of Panama fighting a grander Black Marlin.
I have friends who are Fathers like me who think along the same lines and we all pass on our knowledge to our kids. I have three Daughters who don’t like to fish too much. They can still bait a hook and take their own fish off the hook and they practice catch and release like their old man. I am proud of my daughters and what they have learned about fishing. I doubt they will have the same passion for it as I do but they can still catch fish and enjoy being on the water.
One of my friends James, he lives in Georgia, is the quintessential Southern Gentleman. He also has three daughters and a son now. All his daughters are younger than mine and they all love to hunt and fish. I am sure when young Jackson is old enough he will be living in the woods and on the rivers with his dad and I know James can’t wait. We have already planned out his schedule for fly casting lessons and looking at what rifle to start him out with. I love to hear stories about his exploits with his children and all they do. I hope his daughters love this time in the woods and the water as much as mine did.
I am truly blessed to have a Father who taught me all I know about fishing and instilled a love of nature in me and to have friends who think like me and are passing on their knowledge to their children. So, Happy Fathers Day Dad and to all my fellow Fathers out there. Make sure ya call, or send a prayer, to your Dad this Sunday and tell him Thanks and you love him. I sure will be.
Tight Lines and Screamin Drags…