(This blog was originally posted August 2012)
Fishing the contemplative waters of the Little Manistee River in West Michigan this past week, I thought about my dad—as I often do while fishing. This would have been his 109thbirthday. It was he who sentenced me to this life-long pursuit, starting with a cane pole and bluegills when FDR was president. Now, the activity has evolved to high-tech fly fishing tackle and what might seem to others a near-impossible way to catch fish.
Long after dad was dead, I discovered he’d been a fly fisher. He gave up this more complex way of catching fish in favor of teaching me and my three brothers how to bait a hook with a red worm.
So, as I shivered in the challenging Little Manistee trout stream last week, I thought about how much has remained the same in this spot over the past 100 years and what a different world it is from when dad probably fished here.
I think he might have gotten excited about things like the Mars rovers; even appreciated the Internet. (Though he probably would have thought both a waste of money–like power windows in a car.)
One thing I’m sure he would never have abided was tournament fishing. To dad, the concept of chasing about in glittery speed boats in pursuit of bass or trout would have been as inconceivable as voting for a Republican.
For dad, fishing was a quiet, contemplative diversion; something to savor if only for two weeks out of a year otherwise filled with two or three full-time jobs necessary to feed his family. Our annual vacation/fishing trips always marked a significant period in dad’s year, not one fixed on the calendar like Christmas, but a point more filled with meaning; marking the beginning of our summer exile; a time to recall past exiles–for better or worse.
As a kid, fishing for me was a numbers game. As an adult, my thinking has evolved to the point where I’m not sure catching is all that crucial–which was probably what dad probably thought.