I have never been a big fan on fishing but dad always loved it and so I would always go to make sure that dad didn’t feel bad. He spent hours on the front lawn teaching me how to cast with a fly rode, and more than once I did manage to catch something while practicing. The sad thing was it was usually dad or Christa. When we went up Gray’s River for a family reunion, dad made sure that Lex and I went fishing.
Dad loved to fish in the small streams in the canyons. It was like declaring war on the fish. We were not allowed to talk after we got within 20 yards of the stream and usually had to army crawl to the back. It never failed that dad would always send me into a bunch of thistles or stinging nettle. The thing is it’s not really hard to army crawl, at least not normally. But when you are carrying a fishing pole that is twice your height, that’s when things become tricky. I still to this day do not know how dad managed it. He slid across the ground like the Grinch fro
m How the Grinch Stole Christmas. His long lanky frame would seem to slide around the bushes and between the rocks. Somehow he would slither around the tree and peek around it to see where his quarry was hiding. Sometimes he would first peer over the edge of the stream just like Tom spying on Jerry.
After assessing the situation he would give us hand signals. They were as clip and precise as anything special recon would use… but he always forgot to tell us what in the heck they meant. Mostly it was guess work. You would have to watch the hand motions crawl across the ground and watch his face to see if you were doing things right.
Dad would never yell when you did something wrong, but he would grimace like man who had just smashed his finger with a hammer. I would crawl across the ground with all the grace of floundering fish and make my way, oh so gingerly through whatever sharp and pointy brush he had sent me through. Lex would army crawl through the tall grass her pole flipping back and forth like a banner waving. We would cast into the home of the unsuspecting fish and… well most of the time get nothing. If anyone caught something it was likely to be dad. He would look at his sliver prize and toss it back into the stream saying it was too small. This did not mean that Lex and I got nothing for all of our effort. I was the supreme master of rock catching and Lex could snag a tree at thirty paces.
After Lex moved away and couldn’t get home enough to go fishing, dad found another fishing addict. Andrew seemed more than willing to go fishing with dad, though by this time dad had a sea worthy boat and I’m not sure he every had to play guerrilla warfare with the fish. My fist experience with this new team of fishermen was at Starvation Reservoir. We were on dad’s 30’s model boat -that always reminded me a bit of an owl- her name was The Lady of the Lake an name inspired by a picture I had drawn in high school. I was a hot day on the water and I spent most of my time sitting on the bow of the boat eating potato chips and wishing I could jump into the water (I had always been more of swimmer than a fisher), but knew it would make the disgruntled fishers even more disgruntled… if that were indeed possible. Dad never had to take breaks when fishing. Food was an afterthought and as long as he had a small thermos of tea he could go all day. Hunger and dehydration meant nothing to him. There were times when Lex and I compared our father’s ability to go without water to a desert loving camel.
Dad had just got a new fish-finder and was testing it out. The problem was that the fish-finder seemed to have been seeing things. The water was clear and though the damn thing said that there were fish right below our feet, there was nothing but water. Dad and Andrew tried for hours and finally we took up a position over a submerged island. Here we could see behemoths swimming below, but try as they might the fish were no more temped by their lures than they would have been by a passing shark. After about 30 minutes Andrew threw down his pole screaming at the fish as he jumped up and down, fists clenched in rage. For those of you who don’t know Andrew, picture Frodo Baggins dressed in camouflage screaming at the fish (this image should give you the basic idea).
Dad started laughing so hard his face turned red, but it was the quiet laughter that dad always had so I don’t thing Andrew heard it over his ranting. Being a master of deception (when it favored him) dad was grim and straight faced by the time Andrew turned around. Dad managed to keep his composer until it was just dad and I in Old Red (or better known as the Dinosaur) at which point dad was laughing so hard he could barely drive.
Being the great fishermen they are dad and Andrew did not let being beaten by a bunch of fish go. Year after year they stormed the lake wishing to take revenge on this slight, though to this day I do not believe the fish have ever had a better show.