Sunday, September 24th, 2017

First fish

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Imagine a cane pole with a young boy on one end and a yard or so of line tied to the other, the line leading to a grasshopper impaled on a fishhook. A wandering creek lined with trees yielding mottled shade under a hot Kansas sun completes the scene.

Can’t imagine that? Well, I can. I’ve been trying to remember when I caught my first fish. In the late 1930s, my family would drive to my grandparents farm in southeastern Kansas, usually in early June at wheat harvest time. Dad would help in the fields, and I did what little boys do, including fishing. One lazy day a little bullhead catfish swallowed the grasshopper I had flung on the water.

I proudly hauled my catch back to the house. Grandfather (we kids didn’t dare call him Grandpa) nailed it through the head to a work table to skin it. The rest of the gory process doesn’t bear repeating, but the end result was a nice little white lump of meat and bones to take to Grandma (she didn’t care) as my contribution to supper.

That’s how I caught my first fish, and it was twenty-five years before I caught another. By then I had a family of my own, and we had become Iowans. My wife’s parents summered at Lake Okoboji in northwestern Iowa, and we would spend a week with them almost every summer. There we all fished for perch, white bass, walleye, and yes, bullhead catfish. The fishing bug bit.

One thing led to another, and I started fly-fishing for trout in northeast Iowa’s stocked streams and later in Missouri’s trout parks. More years passed, and when I no longer felt safe wading trout streams, I turned to bass fishing. This led to buying a bass boat and expensive rods, reels, and lures. (The only difference between a man and a boy is that a man’s toys cost more.) This second childhood has lasted well into my retirement years, but it seems to be coming to an end.

So here I am, enjoying springtime at the lake again, but not from the water. My aging bass boat sits unused on its lift in the dock below. It’s aging owner needs a fishing buddy to winch him into the boat and pull him out when he falls in while fighting that big one.

Dave, waiting for his third childhood.

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