My father has always been the fisherman bringing home ice boxes full to share with friends and strangers. The family albums were papered with photos of the bounty. That was before he began to practice catch and release. Fishing was his greatest sport and passion.
One day, as most children do, I decided I wanted to be included in the adult activities. I asked my father to teach me to fish. He readily agreed. But, I didn’t find myself in a boat very quickly. First I had to learn to cast. I envisioned water as being a part of that process, but Dad had other plans.
He bought me an inexpensive starter rod and reel, showed me how it worked, then took a large nail and bent the pointed end around like a “p” making it into a dummy fishing lure. Dad taught me to tie a fisherman’s knot while attaching this homemade lure to the end of my line and took me into… the front yard to show me that the nail made an effective weight at the end of my line. He showed me how it wouldn’t catch on anything the way a real lure with hooks would. He told me that we would fish when I could hit a target.
I was sorely disappointed. Dad was right. The nail didn’t get caught on anything, and I could have stayed there all day throwing my line and practicing… alone in the front yard. This wasn’t at all what I expected. There was no trip through the forest, no boat ride, no RC Cola and no Moon Pie. I stayed there and practiced for a little while, but my attention wandered and I was soon distracted with my dolls.
I still wanted that fishing trip though. Every once and a while I’d ask and each time I did Dad would remind me to practice. Every once an a while I’d take my nail lure to the front yard for a few minutes and see if I could hit a target.
Eventually I demonstrated the (low) level of expertise that Dad expected and our first trip was planned. We went to a local pond. We both sat in the sun casting and enjoying the beautiful day, Dad with his practiced elegant movements and me doing well to come pretty near where I intended. Of course, I’m sure it was a set up. I’m sure I was pointed straight at all the best spots so that it would be hard for me to miss out on catching something. Then it happened. My bobber started to bob. I had my instructions…and I had my Dad.
For the most part fishing with Dad was a very quiet activity, but once that bobber started going, so did Dad. He was more excited than I was. “Careful! See! Wait! Wait! Set the hook! NOW! Set the hook! You lost him! No. No, You still have him! I thought you’d lost him! That’s a nice one! That’s a really nice one. I’ll bet he weighs 2 pounds. That’s really big for this pond. You did well.” He scooped my bass into the net and asked me if I wanted to keep it. I did. I wanted my bass for supper.
I caught the only fish that trip! I was so proud. I out fished my Daddy on my very first try and he wouldn’t have had it any other way. He was proud too and I could feel it. I couldn’t wait to go home and share the news with Mom. I ran in the back door and told her all about it in the kitchen. She was happy to, and as soon as my story was done Dad handed me a filet knife and told me to go outside and clean my fish. Eeuwgh, my nose wrinkled. “I don’t know how”
So, I was promptly armed with instructions from both of my parents at once. My choices were few, I went out and cleaned the fish on the designated board underneath the pecan tree and later that night I enjoyed fresh fish for supper.
Before it was all over, I learned to bait my own hook and to clean my own fish. I learned that the things I wanted were worth practice and working for. Most of all, I learned what it was to feel my father’s delight in my accomplishments.