By: Rebecca Morgan.
My dad fished a lot over his many years. He’d take me fishing every now and then, but as a child, I never really understood the allure. Distracted with the things of childhood, and then later as an adult raising children, I didn’t really make time to appreciate this complex yet simple sport.
I remember my dad organizing many a fishing trip to Canada, his oftentimes weekly trips to Atlanta to challenge or be challenged by the many difficult to access fishing streams. The hunt for the elusive stream trout demanded patience, which my dad never seemed to have much of in other aspects of his life. Somehow, when he was fishing, life was placed on pause. We were entertained by the many stories, usually described with much more detail and perhaps a bit of embellishment when told by those fishing with him. I’m sure that if the banks of the river or river bottoms could speak, they may have chuckled or marveled at the peace and quiet one moment, and then the expletives the next. And we were also frequently blessed to be the beneficiaries of many a feast, mostly trout or perch.
There was no sacrifice too great for my dad when it came to fishing. I’ll share one particular ice fishing story where he survived despite himself. Somehow, while several miles out on the Saginaw Bay, his fishing knife discharged and he stabbed himself. He was alone on this occasion. He immediately pulled the knife out of his abdomen and drove himself to a health clinic, where precise measurements determined that the knife entry point was just a fraction away from deeply puncturing his liver. If you’ve ever taken first aid class, you know that you are not supposed to remove large puncture items. That is to be done by medical staff only due to the risk of bleeding out. That would be one of many near misses throughout his angling years.
Now as I near retirement age, I’m slowing down a bit and making time to reflect on my own life and the important part my dad played along the way. I’ve taken the plunge into the depths of the fishing streams of Atlanta. I’m finding great joy and peace during these outings. It makes me feel very close to my father. I am now beginning to understand the allure. I’m seeing with my own eyes so much more detail around me. The sights and sounds are mesmerizing, regardless of whether I catch a fish. But make no mistake, when I do catch a fish, I think I may have somewhat of an understanding of what buck fever is all about.
I learn something new each time I go fishing. I remember the first time I manually divided a crawler, cringing and thinking, my dad would be proud, but likely humored as well. I felt like a “badass.” The many insects can be overwhelming… mosquitos, black flies, even ticks! I think that first time out on my own in Canada Creek, had someone had a video of me swatting away at the bugs while removing a brookie from my hook, blood everywhere, from multiple sources, it likely would have gone viral! Life lessons can be learned while fishing. When wearing waders, each step must be purposeful and made with great caution. You never know when you’ll encounter a bit of a sinkhole. Flooded waders would be a fishermen’s worst nightmare! Lesson being… slow down. When I get in too much of a hurry, that’s when I trip up, literally and figuratively. Stop and think, look over your environment closely before flipping or casting your line. Need I explain further? Yes, I must admit, I often learn things the hard way. And finally, I now have special empathy for those with tales of “the one that got away!” Though I’ve lost numerous fish as I struggle to figure out the exact timing of when and how hard to reel after that double tug at the line, the most painful loss took place in our creek. I had this approximately 12-inch brown trout in my hand, but the line was all tangled up in logs beneath the surface… and in this lesson, I learned to be prepared, for on this occasion, I was not. Oops! Forgot my net. I couldn’t get a grip to remove the hook with all the tangles, so as the line snapped, the rest is what might have otherwise been history, at least for me. This fishing lesson also included the need to change the fishing line every year. I now wear a glove on my left hand, allowing me a better grip on the fish. These are lessons I won’t soon forget. Some of the funniest and re-told stories of fishing are not actually success stories, if we’re to be completely honest. I’m sure there will be many more lessons in the future, and I’ll enjoy the journey.
On Memorial weekend, I limited out on trout for the first time in my life, this being in the East Branch of the Black River. No, I’m not going to tell you where. (I’m learning about the secretive part of fishing as well!) I’ve been using my dad’s old Ugly Stick on these fishing adventures. It’s shorter so I like it when I’m fishing from a tube. It’s not working as well as it once did and it’s missing a fishing line eyelet. Those who knew my dad know that he could be a little rough on things. (A likely understatement!)
I’ve decided to retire my dad’s old Ugly Stick. It will be on display in our cabin as a memorial to a very special man who has had an immeasurable impact on my life.
Many see Sunday mornings as their time for fishing. Though my dad spent many hours enjoying the beauty of nature through the adventures of this incredible hobby, Sunday mornings were almost always reserved for church and thanking the God who gave us this amazing creation, including the joys of fishing! I would like to carry on this legacy.
So, as a legendary fishing rod is retired, I thank God for blessing our family with a remarkable earthly father who inspired us and left behind fond memories that we’ll treasure for a lifetime and pass onto many generations to come! And to my dad…I Love you Dad! I know I’ll see you again in God’s time. Until then, may the streams of heaven be abundant with fish!