The Farmer’s Wife has been off fishing this past week and I am filling in. It seems only appropriate to make fishing the theme of the week.
Oh...its not as bad as it looks….just one of those brilliant photo ops parents stage that exceed expectations, but not in the way intended.
I should be a better fisherman than I am. Both my grandfathers counted fishing near the top of their avocations. It was assumed that we would learn to fish about the same age we learned to read! The poles were Zebco, of course, with sturdy nearly jam free reels, and the shiny metal tackle box was a wonder. My grandfather’s tackle box was a splendid many layered thing with so many compartments, it was like the magician’s hat that would spit out scarf after scarf after scarf after scarf. There were spoons and spinners and spools of multi colored line, gooey fluorescent fake worms and cunning little popping bugs and gleaming artificial minnows with staring painted eyes and jigs that were supposed to jump enticingly along the bottom. There were bobbers of every size and swivels and lead weights to pinch above your hooks.
We learned to cast from the garden wall with rubber plugs on the ends of our lines, aiming for the inner circle of the automobile belts Grandpa laid out in the driveway. But we had no need for all that exotic paraphernalia in Grandpa’s box. No trolling, no motors, no fancy ties or flies; I learned to fish from the dock of a farm pond. And I didn’t get to drop my line until I caught my own bait.
Earthworms were readily available in the bottomless bucket Grandpa kept buried near his garden, unless the summer was a real scorcher. I was never a big fan of nightcrawlers; too big and too much guts. I preferred a worm of just the right diameter to stick several times on the hook: that way I wouldn’t be re-baiting if some precocious bluegill took a nibble unawares. Stinking of OFF, down the path through the fescue we’d go to the pond. We weren’t allowed to catch bass, just sunfish.The bass were set free to grow into lunkers. Sometimes we’d cast out and watch our bobbers until our eyes crossed. Sometimes we tightlined right by the dock, shedding our bobbers and fishing by feel. The bullfrogs would grunt around us, get spooked by our casts, and make rings in the still water.
Dry summers meant grasshoppers for bait. Not as fun. First you had to chase the darn things down through the sharp grass. Then you had to hook them...under the collar and through the head was easiest, but made it more likely that your hopper would fly off before he hit the water. If Grandpa were around, we were supposed to hook securely through the rear end...but that made the hopper spit “tobacco juice”all over one’s hands. Why was that brown juice worse than worm guts? I have no idea; it just was. If possible, I tried to solve this problem by catching little brown and orange hoppers and not the big ones that flew. They kept their spit to themselves.
Fishing was the tie that bound us to our grandfathers. I never thought about it then; we were all too happy being kids turned loose for the summer. But these many years past, I am happy to have those memories of sunburnt summer afternoons fading to foggy humid evenings, of watching my grandfather’s skilled hands tie on leaders or extract hooks from the little silver fish with the blue gills, of learning to wait….and be still.