When I was a little girl I would stare at a plaque in my dad’s “work room” (aka his lure tying, fish tournament trophy museum and his buddies gathering place) in our basement. I couldn’t read the words but remember the wood engraved picture. It was a man in a boat casting a fishing rod into a lake while a child sat next to him. I can close my eyes and see that image as if the sawdust is falling right now.
As I grew older and was able to read, the words engraved on the plaque merely meant nothing to me. In fact, as a young six-year-old, it didn’t make any sense. I kept reading the engraved words in my head over and over with the hopes that one day it would make some sense. I was too shy to ask my father what the saying meant.
At the time, to me, father and daddy were one in the same. Now as an adult with three little children of my own, I have come to understand the meaning of these words and the difference in a father and a daddy.
I am very fortunate and blessed to still have my father in my life. We never really had one of those lovey, huggy relationships but our bond is everlasting. My father is a huge fisherman. In fact, he has created a business around his passion and has been successful. His fishing retail store is more than an outfit to buy rods, reels and fishing line. It is a place to exchange stories and exaggerations of the latest catch. When you walk into his store you are not just buying a product but the wisdom of someone who knows the lakes, rivers and streams.
He can tell you where the fish are biting. Whether that be up near the lily pads or in the shallow waters by the tree stumps. He can tell you what line depth to set your line at and what lure or jig the fish are biting on. He will even offer to take you out on a fishing trip. For me, it was during our weekly fishing trips that I realized my father was a daddy. Who would have thought that fishing with my father would make me the women I am today and the daddy he is to me.
So if you have a few minutes to spare, grab your hat, your rod, your tackle box and step into my boat. Let’s go on a fishing trip. Fishing licenses need not apply here!
Things I Learned While Fishing With My Father (AKA My Daddy)
1. Always Stay Out To Catch Your Limit. In most states or counties there is a regulation as to how many fish you can catch per person per day. My dad was really lucky because he would take my brother and I on his weekly walleye hunt so he could triple the limit. Yep, we caught onto you dad but have no regrets. It was the challenge to catch the limit and stay out until it was accomplished that has given me that, drive to succeed, attitude. There have been so many times when I wanted to give up, turn in and call it quits. I think of those times I watched my dad throwing cast after cast for those walleye. Something about that determination to catch the limit has taught me to never give up.
2. You might not hook them on your first cast. Fishing is a sport but it is also an art. Perhaps you get lucky and on your first cast you hook a fish but other times you will have to repeat the steps over and over before you ever set your line. I would get so frustrated watching my dad cast, set and reel them in. I would cast and cast and produce no results. My dad taught me that if at first you do not hook them, try, try again. I have used the cast, set and hook method in so much of my life. From dating, to job interviews and in parenthood. Never give up!
3. Trolling along is not a waste of time. I am definitely a Type A person. I expect things to come quickly and am very determined. Every Tuesday evening after school I would go with my dad down to Gordon Park, launch the boat and troll up and down the breakwall on Lake Erie catching walleye. I used to think trolling was such a waste of time. Couldn’t we just go out into the lake and catch the fish. But my dad explained to me that we are doing teamwork. That if we went out into the lake, we would be each casting separately. When we are trolling we are both casting our lines at the same time and luring the fish. The speed at which the lures are pulled through the water impacts the success. So, not everything in life needs to be fast paced and sometimes the best results occur as a result of a slower speed, with a partner and having each be in synch.
4. Sometimes you have to let them go. Many times after hours on the lake, I would finally catch a fish and my dad would tell me great job but we have to let ‘er go. I was dumbfounded at first. My dad would explain to me that the fish I caught was a beauty but she was pregnant. He told me she was going to be a mother and needed to care for her baby fish. I was sad to let her go but understand now why we did. This past year I have watched my beautiful grandmother approach the end of her life with such grace. While we sat at the residential Hospice suite with her, I wanted so much to be selfish and tell her to stay. Yet, I remember what my dad had taught me so many years ago. Sometimes, as hard as it is, we have to let ‘er go.
5. After a great catch, there will be time for a thrill ride. Nothing was better than spending hours on the lake catching fish and then getting to go for a joy ride at full throttle afterwards. Typically dusk would be setting in and as the sun set in our view, my dad would hook up the boat lights. We would travel into the sunset at full speed crashing the boat into the waves. It was so exhilarating. After a job well done, we should always reward ourselves with something that sets our spirits free.
6. There will always be the one thing that got away. Imagine after hours on the lake, you decide to make one final cast. As the line hits the water, the lure slowly sinks and you crank the reel, you feel a little tug. You set the line and before you know it you are in a dance with a bass with nothing but a 2 lb test line between you two. The struggle is on, the bass is flipping in and out of the water and your arms are getting heavy. Your fingers are numbing and your wrists want to give up but then it is getting closer and closer. It is almost to the boat and you go to grab the net to assist and the line snaps. The fish looks back at you and then swims away never to be seen again. All the struggle, the moment, lost in a snap. We have all been there, loved and lost, the career that slipped through our hands or the moment that can’t be repeated. My dad taught me to embrace the moment, learn from it and realize it wasn’t meant to be and most importantly, have no regrets.
7. Sometimes you just have to put up the Gone Fishin’ sign. Work, work, work and no play is no way to live. Gone Fishin’ is synonymous with “time to relax.” It’s one of those past times that at some point everyone comes to appreciate whether you are actually going fishing or not. A little R & R does the body good (milk not so much). If there is one thing my dad always made time for, it was Sunday, his Gone Fishin’ day. Although at some point during the day he actually did go fishing, he always made it a point to remind us that Sunday was a day of rest, reflection and relaxation. I try weekly to make this a triple “R” day for my family too!
Who knew that a small wooden wall plaque with a picture and some jumbled words would find its way into my heart so many years later. Who knew that when I thought we were just fishing, my daddy was teaching me lessons about life. Who knew these lessons would help me to strive for anything, never give up, learn to accept failure and appreciate Sundays. My father and I might have never attended a father and daughter dance, a Girl Scout camp-out or hugged on a daily basis, but we sure have a wonderful relationship that started with a fishing pole.
We danced threw the water, sailed into sunsets, caught earthworms to use as bait and collided with waves. We talk smack about the ones who got away and the biggest dream we caught. And we always make time for each other, even if not on a Sunday. I am proud he is my father but hold a special place in my heart that he took the time to also be my daddy!