It’s ironic that I’m a terrible at fishing. My dad was an expert fisherman. My husband is an expert fisherman. My sons all fish. My maiden name is even Fisher, for Heaven's Sake! And I wanted to be a fisher-person, if only to please my Pop.
Before I could reach the kitchen counter, my Pop took me fishing with him. He was fishing-obsessed and every family vacation was a fishing trip. I was his Saturday morning fishing buddy at the creek below our house.
Pop and I would get up early. What I remember is that the birds were always singing—because fishing season opens in the spring, and my Pop was always whistling, because we were going fishing.
We’d let my mom and my baby brother sleep in. The two of us would drive to where the creek had the deepest pools, and then wander downstream
Whenever I hooked a fish, I’d yell out, “GOT ONE!” and then Dad would rush over, urging me, “set your hook!” “Keep your tip up.” Usually the fish flipped off before I could land it. I hated that. Even though I felt sorry for the fish, I hated letting my Pop down.
While it’s a fact that I could bait a hook, cast, reel, and even conk a fish on the head, (so it wouldn’t suffer long) and could (sort of) help clean and fillet a fish —I never actually liked fishing. I never got good at it, because I never really wished to catch them. I felt sorry for the worm, and sorrier for the fish. Plus I got bored waiting to catch something I didn’t even want. None of that mattered though, because it was splendid to have my Pop all to myself on those Saturday mornings, going fishing'.
Anyway—after an hour or so, we’d have enough “fingerlings," just the right size for frying up with pancakes for breakfast. Pop would pull the willow branch out of the stream where our fish were strung through their gills to stay cool, tuck them in his fern-lined creel, and we’d head home. Mom and Scott would be up, with pancakes ready—and the Springtime Saturday Morning ritual was complete.
That could have gone on forever, as far as I was concerned. Except that I got this baby brother. As he grew bigger, (and probably showed signs of being a more promising fishing partner) I got replaced as the Saturday fishing pal. But the family fishing vacations continued. I started taking along my sketch pad and note book, fishing for stories and things to draw. I sometimes wondered if Pop was disappointed in me, but if he was, he never said so. We shared other things then—like gardening, and horses. And he encouraged my doodling.
Anyway, in his later years, my Pop got involved in a Water and Soil Conservation group. Stream restoration for improving fish habitat was the passion of his later years. He and a group of young biologists and other volunteers planted baby steel head in a stream that hadn’t seen a steelhead run in 50 years, due to commercial logging clogging their spawning beds with silt.
My Pop passed on, to the great fishing river in the sky, four years ago. And while I never made it as a fisherwoman—I have a wish to help pick up where he left off with stream restoration efforts.
This week, I went to visit the stream where we Pop worked, and where we scattered his ashes. There, not a short-cast away, were three steelhead—as long as a mans arm. Swaying and thrashing in the riffle, digging a hole to lay their eggs. I was so excited, I almost fainted dead away. But I got a short clip to share. I wish my Pop could have been there with me. But somehow, I’m positive he was. Thanks for checking in to Streamriffs--and may all your best fishing dreams come true.
Welcome to Streamriffs.com, a place for fellow creek- walkers and nature lovers. Lori Fisher Peelen lives in California with her family.