Do you remember going fishing with your Dad when you were little - maybe you remember that very first time you went out with him?
Those early days of fishing are some of my dearest memories of my Dad.
The first trip I remember was probably in the late 1950s. We drove north from Vancouver to Hat Creek with family friends for some camping and fishing along the creek. We had lived at Lillooet a few years earlier (where I was born) and, as a Boy Scout Leader and general ‘outdoors’ kind of guy, my Dad knew the area well.
While this was the first fishing trip I remember, most of my recollections of fishing with my Dad were in Terrace, BC. This was the routine at our house in the mid 1960s: my Dad would call home from work and ask my Mom to pack up something for a dinner, and he’d ask me to get all the gear ready. As soon as he got home, he changed clothes while I loaded the car and we were off! On many of these trips it was to the Lakelse River, and these were the very best of times with my Dad.
(Here's me and my Dad - him with a 16 and 17 pound Coho and me with a 9 pound Coho from the Lakelse River near Terrace, BC. I remember my Mom making us put newspapers on the floor so an not to get fish blood on the floor!)
For the most part, he was fishing for salmon and I was after Cutthroat Trout.....though I did catch a couple of Coho along the Lakelse River. Many times on those trips, we would meet up with some of Dad’s friends - I remember a guy named Skip Bergsma who was a scuba diver. I recall Dad telling me that he went scuba diving in the river one day. Dad described an underwater tree-snag that Skip said he came across - Skip said that it looked like a Christmas tree it had so many lures on it! There was another fellow, named Derek Shaw, who was a good fisherman (I think his photo ended up in a Beautiful BC Magazine article at tone time). Dad said he always seemed to know exactly where to fish, which lures to use, and where to cast his line
Those were rich times - drinking coffee that was way too hot from his thermos...seeing bears trundling along the river bank....being scared out of my wits seeing a bear track in the mud that was way bigger than both my feet put together....the smell of rotting dead fish.....and the damp smell of the forest that you can only seem to get along the banks of those northern rivers in the fall.
The Boy Scout Troop I was in at Terrace was full of fishing times too, and I remember my Dad came along for at least one of those ‘Troop Trips’. (Probably as a much needed chaperone!)
(Our Boy Scout Leader, Les Watmough (back right), often took us out fishing or out on his trapline....great way for a kid to grow up. This photo is from Red Sand Lake. That's me in the middle.)
I remember rummaging through my Dad’s tackle box and seeing the bright coloured lures and fishing plugs, and I’ve started to paint some of those. I remember asking him if I could have his fishing flies because he never used them - and while I didn’t fly fish at the time, I still used them in the calmer eddies of the Lakelse, Copper, Skeena, and Kalum Rivers and in the many creeks where I spent summer days fishing with school buddies.
(It always seems to me that every Dad's tackle box was a box of mystery and wisdom and not a little magic!)
After Terrace, we moved to the Okanagan Valley where my Dad grew up. Here, my high school buddies in Kelowna were all nuts for fly fishing - something I had never done to that point. They taught me how to fly fish. Generations change and soon it was my turn to do the same, and I was more than ready to take all four of my own kids fishing.
(This is one of my watercolour paintings of one of the first fly patterns I remember using - and I'm sure it stuck in my mind because of that great name - 52 Buick.)
So there I was on those upland lakes scattered all up and down the Okanagan Valley - two girls and two boys in a boat with tangled fishing line, hooks in fingers, wide eyes when that first strike hit, and so much more. I still go fishing with my kids from time to time and it is ALWAYS the very best of times.
(My youngest son, Ian, and I fishing at Sugar Lake - he clearly had the luck that day!)
Another generation further on too - and now I’m looking at those two little Granddaughters of mine and plotting when I can take them out on the lakes. I want to see the wonder in their eyes when they first feel the magic of those times together and that equally magical feel of that tug on the line!
What are your memories of fishing with your Dad?
(These two watercolour pieces are part of a series of new paintings that help me reflect back on those great days fishing with my Dad....a Father's Day Series. The rest will be up on my website on June 10, 2020.)
Father’s Day (like Mother’s Day) is really celebrated every day, isn’t it. Or it should be. Why not jot down some of those memories - make a list of lakes you visited....write about that first big fish you caught....tell your Dad that you’re glad he took you fishing (even if he’s not here - tell him anyway)....dig out that photo of that early fishing trip and show it to your kids or grandkids - it will be proof that you’re a great fisherman won’t it!
Happy Father’s Day!
June 2, 2020