Dad is the World’s Greatest Fisherman


My earliest memories come through like faded Polaroids. I’m crouched in the shadow of my father, poised on the grassy edge of a tiny trout stream high in the Sierra Nevada. Dad flips a little fly into the rippling current and drags it across the surface. The trout panic, but starvation gets the better of one, and in a split second a wriggling golden trout is hoisted to the bank. I pounce on the slippery prize, squeeze tightly, remove the fly, and add it to our stringer. My hands smell sweet with trout, and I can imagine our morning catch sizzling in bacon grease, eyes shrinking to tiny white balls. In my memories, Dad and I fished together all the time. His memories are probably more reliable:

“I remember you being more interested in the tree frogs in the meadow,” he laughs. “For the first couple of years, fishing was just like any other wildlife harassment. As long as you were chasing something, you were happy. Then the fishing disease took hold.”

In my broken family, fishing was first deemed a “disease” by my Mom. The year was 1970, the scene, Arcata, California. Mom was working full time while Dad went to school. After serving in Vietnam, Dad decided to get a science degree. Fisheries seemed like a natural avenue for an avid outdoorsman, and he enrolled at Humboldt State. The arrangement was a sure-fire recipe for disaster, and the ripples from those years still lap at the edges of my psyche. So much pain flared as these two people learned how wrong they were for each other. So much guilt was stored up, presumably to prevent me from following in my father’s footsteps. But the shocking power of fear and guilt is in their ability to create what they most loathe. Sure enough, I turned out even fishier than my Dad, and that’s saying something.

The outcome was for the best, as is most often the case. In fact, fishing and the outdoors are what eventually saved my father and me from lives stained by guilt. We both tried our hand at conforming to expectations, and it didn’t work. We both learned to embrace who we are–namely, fishermen.

These days my Dad and I spend a lot of time together. He still loves to fish, though not as much as in his youth. He retired last year from a rewarding career as a science educator, and now is free to stay with me for weeks at a time. We have a lot of fun, me rowing him around, steering him toward big flashy fish just like he hauled me around his favorite waters in the High Sierra. Whatever else happens in our little lives, we will have fished, and fished well. We know how fortunate we are, and we relish our days. We have explored the finest waters from the Olympic Peninsula to San Diego. We have climbed peaks, bush-whacked through wilderness, gone crazy from blackflies, and marveled at the beauty of our native West. Wherever we go, I know my Dad will catch fish. Because, to me, Dad is the greatest fisherman in the world. RR

I love you, Papa.

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11 Responses to Dad is the World’s Greatest Fisherman

  1. Nice story, my father and myself had a strained relationship repaired by some good time on the water.

  2. Brian says:

    Nicely said. Some lessons, not easily learned, sometimes become the most meaningful. Being able to express those thoughts as gifts, while there are still ears that can hear them, can mean all the more.

  3. Jay Nicholas says:

    Rob. I read every word. snuffled. Read every word again and again. Tried to imagine the similarities and differences in our experiences. Thought about my own “broken family” and how fishing saved me, in a way, although different from your path. This short piece you wrote will touch a lot of people who read it, in many different ways, all good. Thank you for this gift. JN

  4. Monty Montana says:

    Class act my friend…great post.

  5. Rich Youngers says:

    Very nice post Rob. In my youn life fishing was the one thing that my dad had time to do with me. He wasn’t able to do it alot but the few times we did fish together were special. It obviously made an impact on me. It’s what I do for a living. Thanks dad.


  6. Jim Terborg says:

    Thanks Rob for posting this as we approach Father’s Day. It made me pause and reflect on fishing with my Dad. Lot’s of great memories. He introduced me to fishing. An inherited “disease.”

  7. Sean S. says:

    A story that I too can understand. When I think back to when I was young, fishing with my dad was everything. I know about broken too and fishing is one of the great things that have helped to heal what it between my dad and myself.

  8. Bpaul says:

    Great post, thanks.

  9. Matt Eifler says:

    Beautifully worded. Thank you.

  10. Andy says:

    You have a great writing style. I always enjoy your stories. Good luck in life. Remember what a great American once said. “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam” Cans of spinach come in all forms. Thanks for sharing

  11. Spencer says:

    I always look forward to your posts here, and this was no exception. Great post, Rob!

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