When I was a kid (more than 25 years ago), some of the memorable Father-Son moments in my life involved going fishing with my dad. One of the first fish I ever caught was a bluegill using a bamboo pole while sitting on a rocky seawall at Grand Lake St Mary’s. I must’ve been 4 or 5 years old at the time, but it was a memory that stuck with me. Over the next few years my dad and I (and sometimes my younger sister) would go fishing at Dale Hollow Lake in Kentucky and Pymatuning Lake on the Ohio side. When I was 14 my dad bought an old aluminum boat with a 7.5 HP motor and I spent most of the spring sanding, priming and painting that boat in preparation for fishing that summer. Had a good couple seasons. But it was the one that took place when I was 16 that was the most memorable.
Our first trip of that year was a disaster – it snowed. In summer. In Ohio. Then it switched to a torrential downpour. Dad and I woke up as our campsite oozed down a small hill. About 20 or so campsites were affected. All our clothes and sleeping bags were soaked and muddy, despite a tarp and waterproof floor. So instead of fishing we spent the entire day washing and drying everything at a local laundromat. But the next day dawned bright, clear and warm so we launched the boat and headed out.
We were in the middle of the lake, about 5-6 miles away from the launch when the motor died. Dad glanced down at the once-full gas can and saw that it was empty. I’d heard dad curse before, but this was a whole new level. He popped the cover off the motor and found a split fuel line, which pissed him off even more. He’d taken the motor into a local marina to have it serviced, but the mechanic apparently failed to replace any of the rubber hoses on the motor despite getting specific instructions to do so.
At this point dad was spitting mad, and the entire trip was basically a waste of time. With no fuel we broke out the oars and, supplemented by the electric trolling motor, I rowed us back to the launch. It was slow-going, painful, and filled with criticism about my rowing technique for the entire hour. We loaded the boat, packed our gear, and drove back home.
After chewing out the marina owner and dragging the mechanic over the proverbial hot coals dad got refunded the cost of the motor tune-up and got it serviced for free. We took the boat to a couple local lakes and had some success, but nothing again was ever as memorable as that one trip.
On a family trip to North Carolina we’d done some beach and pier fishing, as well as a half-day of deep sea fishing in the midst of a not-quite-hurricane-sized storm. Dad spent the entire trip inside puking his guts up, while I sat outside cold, wet and miserable (and throwing up from time to time). But I caught some nice fish, so there was that.
Sadly, my father passed away a month after my 18th birthday, just a few months out from our next fishing trip to Pymatuning Lake. I covered his boat and hung up the fishing gear and didn’t think about them again for 25 years. It just wasn’t the same without my dad, and the enjoyment I had was being able to spend time with him when he wasn’t being my parent or coach. The boat is still sitting in my mom’s yard, but it’s so badly deteriorated that it would be cheaper just to buy a new boat than it would be to fix it. As for the fishing gear most of it went missing – I suspect one of my sister’s boyfriends (now deceased) stole the reels and pawned them. I’m still looking, but the only other place they could be is the garage, and that is stuffed to the ceiling with junk that I need to clean out.
So why is all this information relevant? The other day my brother-in-law expressed an interest to go fishing, and for once I didn’t see a reason to not give it a try. Except for the fact that I no longer had any gear, but that is easily remedied. So this weekend I went over to Dick’s Sporting Goods and bought a couple rods and reels, new tackle box, and some basic equipment that will get me going again. If I enjoy myself (and I think I will) I’ll start building my own collection of gear, including some saltwater reels (I still have the rods from when my dad and I went beach fishing in the Atlantic).
Losing all that equipment stings, but perhaps it’s the clean break I needed in order to begin enjoying fishing again. It’s no longer my dad’s gear, but mine.
Hmmm, those are some nice looking boats I saw in the window at a local marina the other day. I wonder…