I was thinking recently about fishing — not about going fishing but about the activity of fishing.
As I thought about fishing, lots of memories came flashing back. I thought about the first time I ever went fishing. I must have been 5. My parents had friends that lived on a farm about 40 miles west of Indianapolis. One day, the men and boys grabbed cane poles and trod across a plowed field. It was quite warm that day. It was probably spring.
As we reached the end of the field we could see a small stream, probably less than 10 feet across. We dug up some worms and cast our lines into the steam. Lo and behold, we started catching fish. Before long we had quite a mess of bluegills. (by the way, in the South, when you have a mess of something, how many do you have? Just wondering.)
We took the fish back to the farmhouse and pan fried the little fillets. I remember how good they tasted and thinking how much fun it was catching fish. It wasn’t long after this first experience that I learned an important lesson, that this pastime is called fishing and not catching for a very good reason.
Over the years, I’ve done a lot of fishing (and some catching) with lots of good friends which taught me another lesson. Whether you’re hiking, biking, fishing or even catching, it’s more fun went you’re sharing it with a friend.
On that theme, I decided it would be fun to organize a salmon fishing trip on Lake Michigan for my father-in-law, brother-in-law, a couple of nephews and my son, Werner. He was about 11 at the time. As I think back, the trip could have been a MasterCard commercial. We drove 15 hours from Dalton to Ludington, Mich., bought three tankfulls of gas, spent $300 on fishing licenses and another $500 chartering a boat and skipper. We were all set and ready to catch a mess of salmon. Oops, I’d forgotten the first rule.
The skipper told us “There are 8-foot waves out but I’ll take you out if you want.” Translation: I wouldn’t go out if you weren’t paying me. So armed with Dramamine (everyone but my father-in-law who “never” gets seasick), we leave the harbor. I’m telling you straight up, I’ve never seen waves that big. An aside: when measuring a wave, you measure from normal lake level to the crest of the wave. So if you’re in 8-foot waves you will rise and fall 16 feet from crest to trough. I didn’t learn this lesson until later.
So we’re fishing and have decided that we’ll go youngest to oldest. Believe it, we had hardly left the harbor and we are catching. Werner and Josh both hook up. Josh pretty quickly lands an 8-pound Coho but Werner has a bigger fish on. I’ve got one arm around his waist and a death grip on the gunnel with the other arm. All the while the boat is being tossed from 45 feet starboard to 45 feet port. After 15 minutes, Werner lands a 22-pound king salmon.
After the photo session with Josh and Werner, we notice that “I never get seasick” was indeed a bit uncomfortable. So our MasterCard commercial comes to an end — spend a mess of money, Werner catches 22-pound salmon, priceless!
Oh, there is one final lesson. If you’re going to show mom the pictures of Werner landing his 22-pound fish in the stern of a heaving boat, you might want to make sure he has a life jacket on.
Werner and Mary Braun live in Dalton. He is the retired president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute.