Call it a Hunch
“The fish will be biting tonight, I can feel it in my bones”, I confidently told my father over the phone. Upon waking at the early hour of six AM, I had a hunch today was the day I would head back out with fishing pole in hand–to cast lines with my father (or as I lovingly call him ‘Old Pops’). Coffee in hand, I walked without purpose to the driveway, and looked up at the skyline. The sky was just beginning to light up a milky purple, dotted with small clouds. The Cardinal that had woke me moments before was now up in the front yard, singing songs of spring atop a high branch of the Silver Maple. His song welcomed the dawn with a sure, steadfast beat. I always look forward to my mornings with him. Robins began to chime in, creating an infectious chorus–perhaps celebrating the new day?
Old Pops and I were not to cast our lines together until later in the day, at five PM. During the day, I spent time in the garage cleaning and organizing bikes and storage bins. While cleaning, I began to recall fishing trips of days past…of the feeling, the moments that I continue to, and will always cherish.
Old Pops taught me everything I know about fishing. He taught me to hook a worm, cast the line with impeccable timing and ease, when to let the bobber go, when to tug the line, and how to unhook the fish from the mouth. And of course, he taught me where to cast the line. All these lessons mean naught if you do not know where to cast the line. Where to aim…the goal. Where will you hook that Lunker?
If a fishing trip was planned, we would head out eagerly to the back yard, where my mother discarded lawn clippings into a compost pile (grasses, leaves…). With shovels in hand, we would begin to pull out Earth Worms from the strata of moist, aromatic leaves and grass. These worms were placed in a used Folgers coffee tin which contained a handful of the compost. Running back into the house, we placed the worms in the fridge.
I cannot speak for my brothers, but I was always so excited to go out fishing. I would often spend the entire day looking at books and magazines that contained information on local fish. I went out to the garage to make sure the fishing poles were ready the moment Old Pops arrived home from a long day at work. How he had any ambition remaining after hard manual labor, I will never know. But I do know one thing, we were, and are, fortunate to have such an involved father.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
I left the house, car loaded, at quarter after four, destination: Spider Lake. I took the familiar route, the one that we took as kids, to the lake. First Five Mile, then Ratio, Then High Lake Road. The road that leads to Spider Lake’s public access site is marked by an unassuming brown sign with white letter that displays the shape of a boat entering waves. It is hard to see, and easy to miss.
Turning onto the gravel drive, pebbles bounced off the tires. Trees enclosed the path, allowing beams of sunlight to penetrate the canopy. So many memories of this drive. After I parked the car, I passed the time admiring the clouds above, casting shadows below. I took a few pictures with my film camera. Just as I was winding up the roll for development, Old Pops arrived. I noted his arrival by the tell-tale sound of his boat on the trailer.
Minutes later, we were motoring out to our first spot. On the way, to the left, I notice with some disdain the trash floating about near the shoreline. One day soon I note, I should head out in my waders and pick it all up. Human beings are capable of beauty, and of ugliness. We arrived, wormed our hooks, and cast towards the shoreline. I cast towards the right, near a cluster of sunken tree branches. The perfect residence of pan fish seeking refuge. No luck. Old Pop’s however, excitedly began reeling in a Large Mouth Bass. Halfway to the boat, the fish jumped out of the water–a picture perfect moment. Now aside the boat, we began to inspect our catch…just in time for the fish to rub up aside the boat, breaking the line, setting the Bass free! Moments later, the same fish was in the boat…not quite a keeper. We granted freedom to the fish.
We remained at the first location a while longer, then motored out to two additional locations. At our second location, near a boat hoist and dock, we caught a few pan fish, and placed them in a white bucket between our bench seats. Old Pops, as is custom, proclaimed, “FISH ON!” At the third location, we managed to catch a few more pan fish (mainly small 2-3 inch Bluegill). It was here Old Pops began reeling in what must have been a 13-15 inch Large Mouth. Again, near the side of the boat, the line broke, and away swam the fish. What a catch it was…one we will never forget. A story between father and son, and some day between father and daughter.
Before we loaded up the boat, we decided to try our luck one last time near the dock. I was hoping to catch a large Pumpkinseed, one of many species found in Spider Lake. My eyes scanned the shoreline for the perfect spot. Where to cast my line? The boat gently rocked back and forth as small waves lapped against the sandy shoreline. Bullfrogs in a nearby wetland sung an evening light lullaby. The line cast, the bobber atop the water floated casually…then suddenly…the bobber was being taken deep under the waterline. I quickly set the line, and began to reel in the mystery fish at the other end of the line. As the fish surfaced, I noticed the reddish colored eyes. I exclaimed to Old Pops, “a Rock Bass!” My assertion proved correct inside the boat. A perfect end to a memorable evening out on the lake.
There is something timeless–something intangible–about fishing with ones father. The one that teaches you to cast a line. The one that guides you to make your own decisions armed with the tools and lessons of your youth. To make everlasting, precious memories. Now it is my turn to do the same with our daughter. And hopefully, she will do the same…learn to cast a line…to have ambitions…dreams and goals…armed with the tools and lessons of her youth. And perhaps she will love heading out onto the water with her Pops…
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