Fishing is about the most exciting activity I remember as a child. This is probably because Mom and Dad managed to take us only once a year to a little creek that the locals referred to as “The Lincoln Crick”. Most times, we caught only a few “bullhead” fish. They were small, but fun to catch.
We spent much of those fishing days listening to Dad rant and cuss at us to be more careful casting and “Whatever you do don’t get those GD bobbers caught in the tree roots!” In spite of Dad’s insistence that we practice proper fishing technique, we still had a fun time. But poor Dad managed only to fix our snarled up lines, take fish off the hooks, and run to the other side of the creek via the nearby bridge to untangle a mess my brother, Dale (the Super Caster), would get himself into. Dad somehow found time to get in a few lectures he was sure we needed. He insisted that we, “Keep close watch on the GD bobber!” so the fish wouldn’t swallow the hook; he let us know we pulled “too GD hard” when we missed one; and he forever wondered, “Where in the Sam Hill did you learn to cast?” I don’t think we ever got the techniques down right and, to this day, I don’t have a clue where Sam Hill is – never did stumble upon that place. But, trust me, Dad knew exactly where it was, and he knew just where in Sam Hill they taught proper casting technique too.
Though really no fisherman himself, Dad somehow seemed to know everything about fishing. If our line got tangled up with the person next to us, we got the “GD son-of-a-bitch you’re nothing but a bunch of idiot BEEPS” speech. I was never sure what a beep was, but whatever it was, we knew better than to ask for an explanation. I won’t try to describe the entire dialog of one of Dad’s “lessons”, but he was definitely hell-bent on lining out the appropriate way to cast, sit still and wait, and pull back at precisely the moment the bobber starts to bob. Oh, and Dad was very adamant that no talking was allowed. The fish could hear everything, and if you talked you were doomed to be blamed for causing the fish to go on down the crick. That information was actually very valuable, because we all secretly had a contest going to catch the most and biggest fish. You sure didn’t want to be the loudmouth that scared all the fish down to the next person’s line!
Dad’s temper was always bad, but on fishing trips he put on a real show. One memorable outing, Dad, who was terrified of water, was diligently working to save one of those “expensive GD bobbers” that dangled in some tree roots just beyond reach at the edge of the creek. While reaching for the bobber, one of his cowboy boots slipped in the mud of the bank and down he went. Panicked, he grabbed at the tree but only slipped further into the muck. I seriously doubt that creek was more than four or five feet deep in most spots but, to Dad, it might as well have been the ocean.
When his feet slipped out from under him, I heard Dad scream out something about “GD quick sand” and nearly losing his “GD boot”. Naturally, it was Super Caster’s bobber that got hung up – and boy did he get a good chewing out – but, by gosh, the bobber was saved! I always wondered, “just how much did those bobber floats cost?” Dad never really told us what the price tag was, but it must have been tremendous, as he spent most of the day making sure we didn’t lose one and became terribly aggravated when we did.
I will say that, despite the lectures and cussings, Dad did have his tender moments. My sister Lisa always managed to catch the dinkiest fish and never wanted to part with them. Dad would softly tell her, “It’s a baby fish and it needs to go back to its mother and grow up”. But just when it appeared he had her convinced with the poor baby fish story to release it, and Lisa looked as though she was considering it, her competitive nature would overrule and she would cry and demand to keep it.
The last time I remember Mom and Dad taking us fishing, there was an instance where Mom secretly tried to rescue Dale from getting another tongue-lashing for super-casting across the creek into a tree. Dad had gone down the creek a way to help one of us other kids get a fish off the line. After helping the Super Caster out of his fix, Mom hurried back across the bridge, before Dad could return and ask her, “what the hell are you doing?”. Unfortunately for her, Mom was soon itching miserably and began scratching herself like a mad woman. Trying to keep Dale out of trouble, she’d gotten herself into poison ivy on the other side of the crick. I suppose that was what finally ended our family fishing days. Dad wasn’t about to risk all of us getting poison ivy – GD Beeps anyway.
One thing was certain, our catch from those trips was the best fish I remember eating. I have dined at some really swank places in my life, but Mom’s fish fillets were the best. Buttery and flaky, cooked just right, they were absolutely delicious. And, Mom always made sure to give us great compliments on helping to provide the meal. Of course that usually just started a battle over who caught which fillet on the platter.
Over the years I have continued to indulge in the sport of fishing. We eventually bought a small two-man fishing boat with comfortable seats and an electric trolling motor setup. In that boat, FD and I spent many of our early days fishing and enjoying peaceful encounters at a nearby reservoir. We have also been fortunate to experience some wonderful out-of-state fishing excursions. Some of those were guided fishing trips where we had opportunity to catch the big kahunas. Several years ago, we even managed a deep-sea, guided fishing expedition off of the Cayman Islands where we caught a variety of saltwater fish we had never seen before.
Over the Easter holiday this year, my sister Juli and her family came to visit us over a long weekend. FD and a friend are building a fishing cabin at the nearby reservoir, and so we took my sister and her family out there, via the back-roads of rocky, bumpy Oklahoma sand rock terrain, to the 80-acres of beautiful woodlands where the cabin sits above the reservoir. Before heading out there, we threw in a couple of rods and reels so we could fish the lake if the wind wasn’t blowing too hard.
Two old boats rest along the banks the reservoir, one an old V-bottom boat and the other a flat-bottom Jon boat. Since the slight breeze was tolerable for boating, my niece Emily and I took the V-bottom, while FD and Sid opted for the flat-bottom boat. My bro-in-law does not like water sports, so he and my sister walked the woods and explored while we fished with the kids.
Em and Sid had not had the opportunity to do much fishing in Nebraska, so I knew this would be a treat for them, while FD and I got a good workout paddling the boats around in the water. A fairly stiff breeze began to blow, so the kids had to help with the oars a few times. Em picked up paddling and even casting quite easily, though we were a tad discouraged when we realized the old V-bottom had a moderate leak. Before long our shoes were soaked and, if that wasn’t bad enough, we had to listen to Sid exclaiming out loud each time he had a bite or caught something. Em kept after it though and eventually, FD, Em and Sid caught enough fish to feed all six of us that evening. Of course, Uncle FD caught the most and the biggest!
The next day, we thought the kids might want to go to the nearby Wichita Mountains to hike. But when offered this, Sid hem-hawed around and finally said, “Do you think you would you want to go fishing again?” Em agreed that this was a grand idea, and so it was that we took them out to the lake again.
This time, however, the fishing was more competitive and Em and I were feeling pretty confident about our catch by the day’s end. Em had caught several nice-sized bass. Unfortunately, my reel fell apart, so my fishing skills were handicapped and, needless to say, I didn’t catch many fish. I had to baby my rod; holding it just right and flipping the line out instead of casting. Mostly though, I had a lot of fun watching Em.
Sid and FD had their share of fun as well! Sid was definitely an expert fisherman, or at least one would think so by the way he was yammering about from across the lake! Em and I snickered delightfully when we heard talk coming from the guy’s boat about being careful and watching where one was casting. Evidently the guys had some trouble with a few near-misses and snagging each others lines!
But Em and I had our own troubles too. At one point, I was rowing along, minding my own business when suddenly, I felt and heard a loud “SLAP!” as my sun visor flew off my head and into the boat! For just a second, I couldn’t figure out what the crap had just happened to me! Em did not laugh at all but, instead, looked back at me in horror exclaiming, “I AM SO SORRY!!! ARE YOU OK??” I guess I was OK – at least I wasn’t aware of the presence of any new sports-themed “jewelry” adorning my body – and that was a relief. The last time I had a hook sunk in my skin, I passed out in the back of the pickup while FD dug it out of me. As it turns out this time, Em was only practicing the art of super-casting and had whapped me alongside the face with her lure, catching my sun visor brim (and not my skin, thank goodness) with its hook! Evidently, she inherited this skill from her Uncle Dale (the super-casting thing runs in the family, you know).
I will treasure the pictures and experience of these two fishing trips for many years to come. There is nothing quite so grand as spending time with kids, teaching them a fun, new skill and offering encouragement along the way. What is more, despite Dad’s temper and mostly irreverent reference to the Almighty during our excursions to Lincoln Crick, this recent experience reminds me to be thankful that Mom and Dad took time to teach us to fish. Those outings of my childhood provided some of the funniest and best memories of my life. So thank you Mom, for battling poison ivy to save our brother, the famous Super-Caster, from almost certain doom and cooking up the finest fish in all the land for us to enjoy!
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…