From my eighth year until my thirteenth, Dad worked nights and attended school during the day, as he prepared for the ministry. He was great about spending what little free time he did have with his family. He came to school plays and glee club concerts when he should have been sleeping. He came to my baseball games (even though at times I wish he hadn’t been there to see me strike out or make a throwing error), and sometimes even came to practice.
But the times spent with dad that I remember most were the times he and I spent hunting and fishing together.
For those who fish, you know that part of the sport’s pleasure is derived from the planning and anticipation of an outing. When dad announced he planned to take me fishing, I spent hours re-reading my meager collection of fishing magazines, and going through my tackle box to make sure all my gear was ready when the time came to load the car.
The nights before the trip, my dreams were filled with images of large fish caught in picturesque locations, just like in my magazines. Some mornings I awoke with such certainty that the dreams had been real, that I had to search the house to verify that no fish fillets were in the refrigerator.
Usually the reality of the trip fell short of my anticipation with respect to the size and number of fish caught, but I always had great fun. I was never happy to hear Dad say, “well, it’s about time to go”.
When he inevitably did, I would shoot off casts as quickly as I could as he readied things to go in hopes of catching just one more fish.
The intervening years haven’t changed me much. I still can’t sleep before a fishing trip. I still spend significant time in preparation. There are flies to tie, leaders and tippet to attach, and reels to oil. Weather reports receive intense scrutiny, as do fishing reports. If fishing saltwater, tide charts are consulted. If fresh water is the medium, I check the flow rates of the river.
One of the things that has changed is that today I am usually the one who signals the end of the day.
The onset of darkness is normally my nemesis. But recently, on my home water, a friend and I fished one evening until the moon came up, and illuminated the water such that we were able to continue fishing an hour after it was fully dark. We caught sunfish and bass on poppers and caddis flies until we finally agreed we should give the fish a rest.