Fish are great, but I think fishing is better.
The whole ritual of having your tackle and gear and checking your fish nets, lures, and let’s not forget waders for standing in the midst of a slow-moving stream stocked full of German Brownies and Rainbow Trout. Bait were salmon eggs and Velveeta (rolled into little balls) and my old LA Dodgers ballcap held numerous lures and flies. I fancied myself to be quite the fisherman, (just this side of Captain Ahab), and I usually enjoyed success when I went fishing.
Before I left for college, I went on what turned out to be my final trout fishing trip with my Dad. We went Salmon fishing years later, but that is another story included in my book Emotions: Not your Mama’s ABCs!
So, we head north from Ventura to Big Bear. We pass Diaz Lake (really!) on our way to June Lake and the surrounding streams in the High Country. We stopped at a little mom and pop café and loaded up on a big breakfast before resuming our trip. I remember it being a most beautiful day, even by California standards.
So we are traipsing up and down hills until we reach the stream Dad had supposedly shredded for “a full basket of trout.”
We baited our hooks and opened a couple Budweisers. Dad put the remaining cans in a shallow cove and the bullshit began flowing. I’m good, I admit it. But there’s something about being in the presence of a true Master that is both humbling and empowering. Pops regaled me with stories of forgotten or never-heard-of relatives, and piece by piece, the patchwork quilt that was the fabric of my life, was being completed before my very eyes. Never at a loss for words (another gift passed on to me by my parents), I was stone silent.
I really never got to know my father in the way that I felt a father-son relationship was supposed to be. I totally respected and I believe even feared him a bit, but Dad did not let love in the way I have learned to do. He was pretty stoic and a pillar of integrity, and all I ever wanted to do was chase girls and get stoned.
My first memory of fishing was from the Ventura Pier. Dad would take my brother, sister and I, and we would go just as the sun was rising. There were people already on the pier, some who had spent all night there. As we made our way to a spot Dad declared was The Spot, we propped our poles against the railing and went to the bait shop. Clams and mussels were what we baited our hooks with and that was almost as fun as fishing itself. We played and danced and sang all day. I am sure this will be one of the final scenes that I see before I close my eyes for good.
I remember the men were all passing around bottles of “antifreeze” to ward off the early marine chill.
It was 8am.
Oh yeah, we also caught some fish.