I don't know why I was even tying these flies. I knew I would never return to Alaska to fish that remote river--just a funny habit, I guess. I placed them in a plastic box and wrote on a small slip of paper the time and presentation I used to catch huge Chinook salmon.
I had recently returned from that fast snowy-colored stream and decided I had completed my circle. I resolved I would devote more time to my grandkids' fishing education. My wife Alyce called me to the phone. It was "Snort," now 6 years old. He was one of my grandsons who possessed the greatest desire to fish.
"Hey, Poppy, how 'bout taking me fishing tomorrow?'"
"Okay," I replied. "What do you want to catch?"
"Fish," came the answer.
"Alright, I'll pick you up around eight."
"I'll be ready," he said. "You got me a pole, Poppy?"
"Sure thing," I said. "I'll get it and find some bait."
I thought about the tackle we would use. To myself, I said, "Well, I can't let him use one of my good rods, he can't cast. What will I use?" I looked up in the rafters of the old porch and found there were a couple of old cane poles his daddy had fished with as a boy. "Guess that will have to do."
New lines, corks, and hooks were quickly made up and tied to the old poles. Grabbing a shovel and a tin can, I went to digging worms. Soon I had enough to catch every fish in the pond.
Even though I hadn't fished the pond I had chosen to fish with the boy in some 60 years, I felt confident we would catch a lot of fish. I thought numbers, not size, would be the most important thing.
Well, when we got to the pond, I went to the exact spot that I had fished as a young boy. After a lot of noise and laughter about catching a couple of leopard frogs and crawdads, we settled down to some serious fishing.
The boy caught and I baited. I had never seen fish bite that fast in my life. After a "zillion" tiny brim, I suggested maybe moving over to the side where I knew bigger brim would be. However, he was quite content catching small brim and lots of them. Finally, as we were running low on worms, a snake doctor sat on his cork. I told him a bigger fish would bite soon. No more than the words cleared my mouth, the cork disappeared beneath the surface. A big brim had bit! The kid was all over the pond bank, fighting the fish. The tip of the old pole finally broke and the fish vanished deep in the water.
"Dang, did you see that big brim, Poppy? He was huge! Tomorrow, let's fish over yonder where the big ones live."
"Remember now," I said, "when you leave this spot to catch bigger fish, you are starting your circle."
Confused, he couldn't think of anything to say but, "They're so big!"
"Yeah, but harder to catch."
"I don't care. I want to catch big ones."
As we left for home, I thought that he may not come back to that spot for a long time. But when he does, maybe he'll remember I was with him when he started his circle.
As I wrote the events of the day in my journal that night, I thought how neat it was for me to have been there that day. I recorded all that I had seen and heard in my last chapter of my fishing journal.
Many years have passed. I marvel at the fishing strides "Snort" has made. He has caught many fish of different species from fresh- to saltwater. He has even won a contest while fishing for redfish in the Gulf of Mexico. He has fished in Canada for small-mouth bass, pike, and walleyes. He has many trophies on his walls at home. As I have watched him over the years, he is light-years ahead of where I was at the same age.
I have observed over the years that there are some kids who like to fish and some who love to fish. Every once in a while, there is one who was born to fish. As I explained this to my wife, I asked her,
"I wonder where he gets it from?"
She just smiled and said, "Yeah, I wonder."
Maybe I'll be around in a few years if his kids want to fish. May as well get started now. I wonder if anyone sells cane poles anymore?
On my long journey, I've noticed how fast things move along in today's times. Fishermen are so far advanced with skills and equipment.
However, I wonder if they really take the time to enjoy their circle.
BY DR. JERRY MILLS *
Illustration by Doug Schermer
* Dr. Jerry Mills lives in Mayfield, Kentucky, and offers a collection of short stories in his book The Long Journey and Other Stories.