While wending my way down to Wyandotte this morning, from a distance I saw two silhouettes, walking side by side, carrying what was apparently fishing tackle. The taller one clutched the handle of a box of some sort; the shorter one was swinging a small pail and held onto a bag. They were clearly not in a hurry and I soon caught up close to them. From behind, the scenario was reminiscent of Andy Taylor and his boy Opie going fishin’ … so I guess I am showing my age as I recollect that image. I fought back the urge to start whistling the theme song to the “Andy Griffith Show”. As I suspected, the man and boy each held onto a fishing rod which was propped against their respective shoulders, and the lures were flipping about and tinkling merrily in the slight breeze. The man was carrying a tackle box and the boy was carrying what I guess was a pail full of nightcrawlers and a McDonald’s bag, breakfast for after they cast out the first line. I liked seeing them trudging along, each deep in thought and headed to the river to go fishing on a hot Summer’s day – how refreshing to see this father-son activity instead of them just hanging out playing video games. I’ve known several people over the years who arranged their work life around two or three fly fishing trips a year. These fisherman travelled with their buddies and each locale was more exotic than the last. My dentist and his fishing buddies went to a secluded spot in Alaska every August; they’d charter a plane and get dropped off in the wilderness and stay at a rustic cabin and fish to their heart’s content for two weeks. Now, there is a leisurely respite from the daily routine.
I was musing on the way home about my own fish story. I’ve only been fishing once in my life when my parents rented a cottage in Alpena, Michigan in August of 1968. The rental included a boat and dock as well. My father wanted to go fishing and bought all the trappings to do so – a fancy-schmancy rod and reel, a half-dozen or so metal lures and a tackle box to keep them in. My mom declined the invitation to go fishing and instead bought a few paperbacks to relax with. I was only twelve years old and my father bought me a kid’s bamboo telescopic fishing pole which had a tiny double-speared fish hook and a red and white bobber on the end. There were other neighbors near the cottage who were fishing at their docks or in boats up at the lake and all proclaimed “the muskies were running” and guaranteed we’d catch enough for a good fish fry. We went out the night before and dug up some long and juicy worms for bait and they were tucked into a few scoops of dirt in an old cottage cheese container. My mom packed us a lunch and sent us on our way. She handed me a half a bag of leftover popcorn from the night before as we walked out the door. My father had zero patience and tolerance for anything and my mom had suggested that fishing would be an unlikely hobby for him to pursue, but he disagreed and said he was looking forward to a relaxing time communing with nature. He rowed out a bit, we baited our hooks with wiggly worms and sat … and sat… and sat. Ho hum. Not alot of fun for me. After two hours the sun was high in the sky, and with nary a bite, I suggested we have a cold drink and eat lunch. I spied the popcorn in the bag and scattered some of it on the top of the water and I soon saw bubbles and activity as fish lips pulled in the yellow puffs. Excited, I decided to bait my hook with the largest popcorn piece I could find. Within minutes, my line was tugging and pulling and I showed my dad. Ever the pessimist, he said I’d probably hooked a piece of driftwood that was moving in the current. But, no, wait – it was pulling and tugging! I had no reel on my makeshift rod, so to appease me, my dad maneuvered the boat around and reached in and grabbed the line and the poor fish, who was gasping and flailing about. We got him into the boat and he continued thrashing around. We eyeballed his length at about a foot long. Our family were not big fish eaters (unless you count Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks), so we decided to throw him back into the water, but not before I handed my father my mom’s Baby Brownie camera to capture a picture of me and my trophy muskie.
P.S. My father never caught anything that day, nor the entire vacation for that matter. I didn’t go fishing with him again as I figured he would not enjoy my one-upmanship , though of course he later bragged about “all the ones that got away” while he was helpin’ me land MY big ol’ fish.