The First Fish
I have fished all of my life, it is just something that I grew up doing, and never gave it a though. If you have followed my blogs, you have heard the story as to how I had stopped fishing as a busy single father until my children were grown and I met Donna who renewed my interest in fishing and revived a passion in me that was long forgotten. I had taken the kids when they were small, but neither my daughter nor my son cared for it to much back then. When someone recently asked me, ?What was the first fish that you caught?? I pondered that question for several days, and I honestly could not remember the first one. I recalled fishing in a farm pond with my brother and cousin, I remembered fishing with my father on Dale Hollow Lake, but I could not remember the first fish. But as I soul searched the memories of my youth, I remembered the fun times with my family, the days spent with friends and some who have passed, and many of the summer afternoons at ponds with hooks and bobbers. I did recall a special memory that somehow was hidden deep inside. A memory that I think first began the passion for fishing.
There is a part of my story that I haven?t publicly told, a part of my past that I have pushed completely out of my mind that is possibly the foundation for the interest and passion I have developed for bass fishing. I have blogged that as a child, I would sit at Dale Hollows Horse Creek dock and listen to my father, my cousin, Jack Huddleston and the late bass legend Billy Westmorland talk about fishing. I sat at the dock and fished with a hand me down Zebco 202 several afternoons while fishermen would pat me on top of the head as they would walk by heading to their boats. Some of these men I later learned were some of the legends, Johnny Morris, Bill Dance, Jerry McKinnis just to name a few. I sat at the dock with the ?old timers? while my older brothers were fishing not just because I was younger, but because I was disabled as a child.
However, the memory that profoundly came to me the other day as I searched for the memory of the first fish was one that did not involve any of these great fishermen, it involved a very special person in my life, one whom instilled a love of fishing in me, my blessed mother. I recall one summer afternoon when I was seven years old that my father came home from work and quickly gathered up the family and we loaded into his old Cadillac and headed to Dale Hollow for a cookout and some fun. As my father fired up the charcoal grill, my brothers and sister, headed for the water for a late summer swim. As they romped and frolicked and splashed in the clear cool water, I was forced to sit on the bank and watch. With heavy plaster cast on both legs I was forbidden to get near the water, as dad would say, ?You?ll be on the bottom like a lead sinker if you fall in.?
As I quietly watched from the water?s edge, my mother came over and sat down with me, and had a surprise for me, she had made a fishing pole for me from a long stick and had it rigged with line, a bobber and a hook that she had found in a tree near the lake. She taught me how to bait the rig with a small grasshopper she had chased down. It wasn?t long after the bobber hit the water that I had set the hook and lifted a bluegill to the bank, and my mother didn?t hesitate grabbing it and taking it off of the hook. I asked her if we could cook it on the grill and she smiled and said, we have hamburgers on the grill, let?s let this one go. I know that this was not my first fish; according to my oldest brother I was so young that I would never remember the first one. I do remember that on this particular summer afternoon my mother walked back and forth through the grass catching grasshoppers for me to bait that old rusted hook with as my father cooked our dinner on the grill.
I couldn?t tell you how many fish I caught that day, but I can tell you that my mother was possibly the biggest influence in my childhood for fishing, those great anglers that later became icons were just some guys my father spent hours talking to about ?them old brown fish? of Dale Hollow lake, while it was my mother who was showing me how to catch them. This was one of those beautiful childhood memories that hold a special place in one?s heart forever. It wasn?t long after this she bought me my very first new rod and reel, and I still own it today. She helped me to fill my tackle box each time we went to the lake, by walking the shore line and searching for lures other anglers had lost. My mother and I are still very close, she asked me every day if Donna and I are going to go fishing. She always wants to hear about the fish we catch.
My mother did remind me recently that as a kid, I would ask her to buy a pair of sun glasses for me like Bill Dance wore so that I could see the fish. Her response to that was, if you can see the fish they can see you, and you only need for them to see your bait to catch them. As I put all of this together I am amazed that these two ladies, my mother and Donna, have had such an influence on the hobby of fishing I enjoy so much. With this, I realize that it is not the first fish you catch that is important, but it is the first fish that catches you that leads to the passion.