I’ve been thinking about my Dad the last few days. It’s been cold and gray and I’ve had lots of time to think. I wish Dad was still here. I would like nothing more than to have one more chance to tell him how much I love him. And give him a hug.
My Dad passed away in early 1969, so it’s been over 48 years since he was here. Dad was the one who taught me to fish, to drive a car, to ice skate, to build a campfire, and most importantly, to be honest and respectful. He had a quick wit and quicker temper. Toe the line and you’re fine; cross the line and you’re “mine”. All of us kids knew “if Dad found out” we were in big trouble. That’s the way it was growing up in the 50’s.
Mom was our confidant, Dad was our judge.
Dad had the same intensity fishing as he did raising his kids. Amazingly, he had infinite patience when I had a snag or when the biggest fish of the day shook loose due to my inexperience or “not paying attention” as Dad liked to point out. “Stop day dreaming”, he would say, “and pay attention” as if this was on the same level of importance as the most recent space launch.
We had great times fishing. Some of the best times of my life were spent with Dad on a lake, river, or pond. Dad believed catching fish wasn’t nearly as important as the lessons fishing taught about life, expectations, disappointment, elation, and almost every other emotion he could somehow conjure up, no matter how abstract or vague it might seem to me. Nature, you see, was dad’s real master and mentor and something he taught me to love as deeply as he did. Whatever transpired with a fish while we were in the great outdoors was always a lesson to be learned and remembered.
Thinking back over the years that I had my Dad there are so many memories. Maybe I’m luckier than most, but what I remember 48 plus years later are all the good times, the fun stuff. Sure there were some bad things, but time has a way of editing and prioritizing. Like the proverbial cream rising, it’s the good stuff that we cherish. It’s the good stuff that rises and sticks in our brain.
One of my favorite memories was a day Dad and I were fishing with a guide on Rowan Lake in Ontario. Dad was in his teaching mode and showing me how to fight a big northern pike on light tackle. He had a Mitchell 300 and a Heddon Pal Mark IV spinning rod and at least a 15 lb. northern on the hook. “Let the fish run”, he counseled as he rammed the rod under the boat and began moving around the bow to the other side.
“See”, he said, “we’re working the fish away from the weed bed and making sure he knows who’s in control.”
Our guide swung the boat and idled the old Johnson 2-stroke away from the weeds as Dad kept the line tight while adjusting the drag slightly tighter. Suddenly the fish changed directions and both Dad and the guide scurried to switch positions. In a flash Dad was back by the motor and our guide was working a paddle from the bow.
The head strong northern again changed direction as if he had a spotter giving him instructions.
I was told to “sit tight” and this fish would be ours. Or so we thought. Dad fumbled and managed to move to the bow, this time almost shoving our guide in the lake. It was about this time that the boat became unstable. At least that’s how I remember it. 12 ft. boats really aren’t all that stable, especially with three people and a wild fish all going in different directions. Then I heard the splash.
I had been watching our guide try to get control of the boat and I simply missed Dad going into the lake. By the time I turned all I saw was a big splash and Dad’s head rocketing up past the surface. I burst out laughing. At least until I saw his never-seen-before expression. He wasn’t smiling. He still had his rod and he still had the fish on the line. I gulped and did my best to suppress my smile. It didn’t work. I knew I was a dead man!
Given Dad’s 200 lb. plus frame and the size of the boat all we could do was drag Dad, his rod and reel, and the northern on the end of the line to shore and hope the situation would improve. As we approached Dad slipped on the submerged moss covered rocks and again was under water. He popped up, still holding the rod and reel. He crawled to shore, dripping wet, reeling as he went. By now I had managed to wipe any remaining smile completely off my face. Good thing.
Our guide beached the boat, grabbed the landing net, and jumped out to assist Dad. By now the fish was tired and soon landed. 15 lbs.+ was the verdict. “Nice fish, huh boy?”, Dad said.
Dripping wet and no doubt cold, Dad was in heaven. “What a fight!”, he said with a big smile.
Quickly the northern was released, no doubt to return to his pals and regale them with a story about a crazy fisherman and his determination.
We all smiled. Dad managed to get in the boat and we headed back to camp. He never grumped or said a word about his swim. He was a fisherman, and a proud one at that. He had conquered the might northern pike in an epic battle. He had prevailed. And I was safe!
I miss my Dad. A lot. I think about him often, even 41 years later. The sad part is I can’t remember his voice. I can see his face, I can feel his love, I can remember his bear hugs, but I just can’t remember his voice. I really miss my Dad.
Dad always told me, “I’m the only dad you’re ever going to have.” How true. How very, very true.
This week we have some really great new gear to show you. Fishing should start heating up all across the country and new gear is just what every fisherman wants!
Once again, thanks for all your support and confidence. We’re only here because of you, your friendship, and your loyalty.