A Gift That Keeps on Giving


Eventually, father time catches up with all of us. Once in awhile, I try to catch up with father time.

It took me over 40 years, but I can finally out fish my dad on occasion, although he’ll never admit it. He’ll blame it on my fancy new line or the way I operate my MinnKota bow mount to keep him away from the fish.

“Back in the old days, all I needed was a rowboat and a Lowrance green box,” my dad would probably say. And he’s right.

I remember when an old tin boat powered by a small 18 hp Mercury Hurricane outboard that met all of our needs whether we were fishing for panfish or walleyes, hunting waterfowl and even waterskiing.

I remember how much I treasured my first fiberglass rod and my first Johnson spinning reel, not only because they were mine, but because they represented a certain independence and maturity.

I know now how far ahead of his time he was at walleye fishing and my first five-pound walleye that he helped me catch. It seemed a lot bigger. I remember him working all night long on third shift, then taking my brother and me duck hunting all day long. He would place me on a muskrat house with my own 20 gauge single shot and a coffee can of shells that we loaded the night before. He would take a nap in the boat to get ready for the next night of work. I would sit with our lab and shoot at the ducks and from time to time, I would get lucky and hit one giving the dog something to do. At the age of 12, I reloaded shells instead of playing video games and looked forward to it. I remember walking behind him on marsh skis that I still use today on my own. This is why I remember my first duck like it was yesterday. I remember my first deer – I took it with a bow. He was more excited than I was!

I remember how big everything seemed. The lakes, the waves, the marshes, the woods, the weather and even the fish and game were larger than they are today.

I might not remember them all, but I remember most of the outings my brother, Bruce, and I made with our father. I remember the sacrifices dad made to teach us how to hunt and fish and how to respect the resources that provided our fish and game.

I remember the messes Bruce and I got ourselves into. We would get lost in the woods, stuck in the marshes. We tangled lines. We created backlashes a bird would be proud of. We lost lures. We probably broke a rod or reel along the way, too.

I remember my dad’s patience. No matter how large our problems, he solved them. In fact, during those first few years, he had little time to fish himself. When dad took the boys fishing, he took the boys fishing.

I remember begging my father to let us keep a mess of bluegills, even though many of them were only three or four inches long. Dad would clean them, and we’d all talk about how good they were on the dinner table.

Now it’s my turn. June means warm weather and hungry fish. It also means Father’s Day. Although I can’t give my dad what he has given to me, I can take him fishing. We can share some of those old memories. We can argue about presentations. We can wager on the largest fish.

Maybe I’ll even out fish him, but I doubt it. Whether I catch a fish or not, I’m still the lucky one. I was fortunate enough to have somebody in my life to instill a passion for the outdoors that has shaped my life in a way I wouldn’t change for anything. This is for all the dads out there that spent time in the outdoors with their kids the way my dad did.

Thanks, Dad.