To Catch a Fish

Missing my dad today. It’s been 8 years since his passing and I miss him all the time. Thought I would share one of my favorite stories I had written about him.

 To Catch a Fish

This is a story about a little girl, a little girl who just wanted to catch a fish. This is my story, that little girl was me.

Growing up in a small town that rests on the edge of Lake Michigan, along with several other smaller lakes within its borders, one was sure to find the perfect fishing spot. My dad was an avid fisherman and taught us all how to fish. My childhood memories are ones of warm evenings spent with my whole family, fishing at the channel, which at one time connected the smaller Wolf Lake to Lake Michigan.

I’m not sure if my sister and mom actually fished when we went, but they were there nonetheless, probably reading a book or a magazine. Being the youngest after my two brothers, I was a bit of a tomboy growing up, getting caught up playing the things that they enjoyed. So, when it came time to fish with my dad and brothers, I was all in. Well, as all in as I could be at the age of six. I watched in awe as my brothers cast out their lines with those fancy rods and reels of theirs. It was a true art form, and took practice, with just the right movements to send that bobber out into the lake at the perfect spot. It was all in the timing, you pulled back, pressed the button to release the line with a flick of the wrist, you heard the whizzing sound of the line as it would sail through the air. You knew it was a perfect cast, when you heard the ever so slight plop of the bobber as it breached the surface of the glass-like lake, with only a few ripples; your worm on its hook settling in the murky water to wait. Then there was my experience, with my cane pole, and red and white bobber. No skill really needed, I just flung it out into the drink and hoped for the best. My dad always taught us about safety, reminding us how sharp and pointy the hook was, and that you needed to be careful as you cast your line out, so that the hook wouldn’t snag you in the back of the head. Even though I was a tomboy, I was still a little girl, and putting a worm on a hook, was not for me. That was my dad’s job, and I was fine with that, and it was key in this little charade he called fishing.

So, there I sat, with my cane pole and my red and white bobber just sitting there. We didn’t talk much, if we did it was quiet conversation, as to “not wake the fish.” Even when one of us got a hit, we didn’t get overly excited. It was a simple, “I got one.” As we manned our poles yet watched the dance between the fish and the fisherman as it was brought to shore. Sure enough as I heard the ‘got one’ on my left, there was two more on my right. Holding on to my trusty pole, just knowing I had to be next, needing to be ready, yet I couldn’t help but turn my attention to my brothers reeling in their catch. Once the excitement wore off, we sat. Then sat some more. . .waiting. As the sun set and the breeze began to cool, you could hear the gentle lapping of the lake on the shore, and a small voice innocently question, “Hey Dad. . .why haven’t I caught a fish yet.” Which was always answered with some wise fish tale, that only a six-year old could believe.

Then there was the one evening, as I was growing bored with the whole not catching a fish thing, I started looking through my dad’s tackle box. I found a round tin, with the letters SKOAL on it, not sure what it was, I was bent on finding out, and tried to open it. It was a struggle for my small hands, but I figured out that I had to push the top and bottom together real hard and twist to open it. With my fierce determination, I got it opened and the contents of the tin burst out and covered my entire chest. As I looked down, I was coated in what looked like saw dust, and little, tiny, squirmy, white. . .WORMS!! I’m not sure if anyone else heard the scream like I did in my head. Maybe I actually held it in, as to not wake the fish, but I was totally freaking out. Just as quickly as it happened, it was over as my dad rushed over, brushed everything off of me and saved me from the Bee Moths! Or just maybe he saved the Bee Moths from me. With those wormy-like things back in their little home, I went back to my cane pole, and sat. . .waiting. . .and sat some more. This was so much better than being eaten alive by Bee Moth Larvae. Or was it? You see, everyone, except me, knew that there was never a worm on my hook! Honestly, I’m not sure there was even a hook!

But then one day it happened. My dad, knowing he couldn’t keep up this ruse forever, decided that just him and I would go fishing, early one morning. We got out to the channel just as the sun was rising over the horizon. My dad grabbed two rods and reels from the trunk, and his tackle box. With my eyes wide, I realized the cane pole stayed behind. Is it possible? I got a quick lesson on how to cast out. My first few tries landed my bobber with a ker-plunk in the water not 3 feet from where I was standing. Try again. With my dad’s help, I was able to cast out. Proudly holding on to my precious rod and reel, I sat, waiting. . .this time with a smile on my face. It’s going to happen today!! Sure enough, I felt that little tug, and then “Dad. . .I got one!” We both stood, and he coached me as the fish tried to run with the bait in his mouth, “Let him go for a little bit, then reel him in.” I did that a few times, excitement pounding in my ears, mixed in with the whirling sound of the reel as I brought my catch to shore. My dad grabbed the line and pulled it out of the water. There on the end, frantically flipping, was my first catch, a nice little Perch. I finally did it!!

OK. . .so I totally exercised my artistic license on that last paragraph. I really don’t remember actually fishing that day, but I do remember taking this picture, and I’m sure I actually caught this particular fish. I am smiling so broadly not because I was proud of my catch, but those things are slippery little suckers, and it was hard to hold on to.

As we got older, my brothers moved on, and lost interest in fishing. I totally lost interest, and set my sights on gaining some fashion sense, thank God. (Either my dad dressed me that morning, or these were hopefully my ‘fishin’ clothes.’) My dad went on to bigger and better fishing opportunities. Fishing with his buddies on their boats, or going out alone and fishing off the shore of Lake Michigan, which earned him the Indiana State Record in 1983 by catching the largest Brown Trout weighing in at 22 lbs. 8 oz.  A title he held on to for several years.

Today, you probably couldn’t pay me to go fishing. I’ve put my time in, thank you very much. But I’m grateful for the time spent with my family and the memories I have. However, just like any good fish story, the details are subject to over-exaggeration with each telling.

© Carrie Ann 2016

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