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I absolutely love to fish. I have always loved to fish. To this day, I do not know of anything more exciting than seeing the tip of my pole bend toward the water. I know how to fish. But, I have not always thought of myself as a fisherman. It took me a long time to realize what fishing was all about. This then, is the story of how I became a fisherman.
I have been fishing since I was about five years old. My Dad began taking me on day trips, shore fishing in California, in the early sixties. We used to fish where some very expensive houses now exist. I was too young to know what type of fish we caught, but I knew my Dad caught a lot of them. We also fished from the Belmont Pier. At night, we would use a light, hung from the pier, to attract the fish. We caught herring, smelt and bonito by the bucketful. We used a jig called a Lucky Joe. It seemed like Dad was always taking one off his line!
A few years later, at my begging, Dad started taking me off shore fishing. We had a friend, who had a nice sized boat that was set up to stay on the ocean for a few days at a time. I was still to young to go out for more than a day at a time. Off the shore of Southern California, in an area called Huntington Flats, we caught halibut by the score. They ranged from 3 to 10 pounds. On one trip, Dad had a fish working on his line. He was reeling in the live anchovy ever so slowly. To our surprise, a barn door sized halibut, like the ones caught off the coast of Alaska, was following his bait! Talk about excitement! He did not catch it. It slowly swam away. However, Dad was still out-fishing everyone on the boat. AGAIN!
We started fishing more and more on our family vacations. We fished all over California and Oregon. We even fished a small lake in Idaho, outside of Clarkfork. Our family started to take camping trips for our yearly family vacation. My parents bought a tent trailer and away we went. We camped in and fished in the entire western third of the United States. If there was a lake or a stream, we camped and fished. I was learning all about freshwater fishing and fishing in general. I felt like I was, as any young boy would feel, in heaven.
What I began to take notice of was that Dad always caught the most fish! Always! He didn't always catch the biggest fish, but he always caught the most. I would watch him like a hawk to see if he was doing something just a little bit different. I watched how he tied the hooks, how long his leader was, where he cast, everything. I imitated him to the letter. Still he would catch more fish. Now, being an early teenager, I had to outdo the 'old man'. I don't think he knew it, but every outing was a "World Championship Tournament" to me. If I could just catch one more than Dad...
That year, we pulled in to Silver Lake Campground, in the June Lake Loop. The last day of a great vacation. We were going to spend the afternoon fishing and get a good night's rest for the six-hour ride back to civilization. It was a warm June day. After we set up the tent trailer, Dad and I headed for Rush Creek. We tried the usual, salmon eggs and worms, but didn't get a bite. After a couple of hours, Dad said he was calling it a day. He headed back for the campsite.
I decided to move further upstream and try it there for a little while longer. I came to a big bend in the creek. There was a fallen tree that extended to the middle of the bend. The combination of the bend and the dead tree made a nice sized swirling pool. I was almost out of worms, so I decided to take a minute and tie on a small spinner. I tied a swivel to the end of my line and clipped on a #1 size Panther Martin. The bend in the creek was like an upside down U. I moved to the center of the "U" and sized up where I wanted to cast. Upstream was to my left. I decided to cast far enough upstream to allow the spinner to glide through the swirls over the dead tree. I made my cast.
I hit the spot where I was aiming and began to reel. The lure just was just coming to the swirls when I felt the tip of my pole pull down. I raised up to set the hook. A few minutes later, I landed the trout. It was a nice sized fish. It probably weighed about a pound or so. I quickly put it on my stringer. I calmed myself and made another cast to the same spot. To my surprise, I got the same result! The second fish was slightly larger. I now had two fish on the stringer and could not wait to cast in again. On my third cast, a fish hit at the lure, but I did not hook it. Just then, I heard someone coming through the brush toward me.
I waited to cast until I knew who it was. It was my Dad. I guess I had been gone for quite a while. He was surprised I was still fishing. He asked if I had caught any. I was grinning from ear to ear as I held up my stringer. He asked where I caught them and what I was using. I showed him the Panther Martin and told him to watch where I was casting. I casted to the 'spot'. Wham! Another nice trout. When I turned around to hold up the fish, Dad was smiling from ear to ear as well. He watched me as I put the fish on the stringer. I made another cast. The fourth fish was on the line. After I placed the fish on the stringer, Dad was standing next to me. He hadn't brought his pole with him. He looked at me and said, "Let me see that pole." I was smiling so big when I handed it to him my cheeks were hurting. I sat down in the grass and watched my Dad cast with 'MY' pole into 'MY' spot! Dad caught a fish on his first cast too! We caught several more before it got dark and we headed back.
It was that exact moment I knew I had become a fisherman. It had been many years coming. As much as I was impatient to catch more fish than my Dad, I realized that day that fishing is not just about catching fish. It's something more than that. That is what made me a fisherman, and I hope I am able to pass this on to my own children some day.
Thank you Dad.