Fishing trips with my son seemingly always
offered unexpected and sometimes outrageous events.
Such as the time he got caught up in a tree and it
took two of us to climb up and somehow unhook his foot
out from a crook. Several moments later we rescued him
as he floated downriver, having slipped from the bank.
Or when, of all things, a white pelican befriended
him at Lac qui Parle one morning, leaning against him
as he waited for a bite. Aaron would move and so would
the pelican, as if he were a prom date.
There was that time in the BWCA when he inexplicably
jumped from the canoe while I was discussing with a
friend over whether we should wade into the rapids or
portage, and sent me toppling over the back of the
canoe into deep water.
Something always seemed to happen.
As a kid, my son's mantra was to catch his fish,
then move on to more important or interesting things.
Like climbing a tree. He loved exploring, and when he
wasn't climbing through the wilds of nature his nose
was in a book. "Hey, Dad. I've caught my fish," he'd
say. My friends love telling the many "I've caught my
fish" stories that have accumulated over the years.
"Someday," he told me a few years back, the summer
before he left for college, "as I get older, I'll
start fishing again."
Now graduated (with honors, brags his proud father),
he returned home so his lady friend could join his
mother and our exchange student for a belated
Christmas present and bonding experience at a nearby
organic farm that offers a B & B complete with a sauna
and a skinny dipping pond. As the women headed off for
their retreat, he asked, "Well, Dad, why don't we go
"Where? What for?"
"I dunno. Let's put the canoe on the truck and see
where we end up."
"I don't have much for spinning equipment anymore."
"You still have the Ugly Stick, don't you?"
Here I was thinking of a roadhouse steak dinner with
some cold beer to catch up on times (and his career)
and he was asking about fetching an Ugly Stick.
"You're too big to rescue out of a tree." Fishing with
Aaron, like I said, always had a defining moment.
"Tell you what, I've been thinking of wanting to go
fishing with you for a long time. And tonight is a
perfect time," he said, rocking the porch swing.
"It's been a long time, Dad."
When he left to put his clothes in the dryer, I
headed for the garage for the canoe. We live in the
lakeless prairie, with the closest lakes at least a
half hour away at the unposted speed limit. With the
canoe tied down, we rigged the Ugly Stick with a slip
bobber and a neat crappie looking fly I received in a
swap this past winter. As we pulled out of town a
quiet decision was made to head to a small state park
lake, a small motorless water nestled in an oak
savanna with a beautiful rock substrate and shoreline.
Perhaps we could avoid fighting the wind.
Forty-five minutes later we pulled into a deserted
parking lot. We actually had the entire state park to
ourselves. Winds that strummed the grasses in the open
prairie en route to the lake gently rippled the water
surface, and after the first hour we were sitting on a
Up in the bow, Aaron flung his rig up against the
edge of the weeds and brought several small bluegill
to the canoe. Two weeks ago one of Rick Zieger's black
Boa Leeches had tricked several very nice bluegill
into biting. Their hatch-mates must have gone into
hiding. With the dimples of surface activity I changed
to a Gurgle Pop, and again caught several small gills.
Nothing for dinner.
Late afternoon was settling in, and with the calmed
water, we decided to paddle across the lake where
deadfall created some wonderful cover. Aaron hooked a
very nice crappie as I switched my fly once again,
this time to a black Gill Buster. On my first cast a
nice bass, probably under two pounds, put up the first
meaningful challenge of the night, even doing a tail
dance for us.
By casting as close to the downed tree tops as
possible we started to tag some of the bluegill we had
come for along with some decent crappies.
"I really needed this," he said, turning from the
"I know what you mean."
He told of going to Duluth for a last outing with his
college buddies before they spread out across the
country starting careers and families, and of how it
had turned into a deep jigging walleye experience.
Aaron is not one to sit still for very long, and he
spoke of his boredom. Indeed, he returned from the
trip fishless. "I needed this for my confidence, too,"
he admitted, reeling in another keeper crappie.
As I turned, the last sun of the day caressed the
upper half of the oaks on the bluff across the lake.
Above that a partial moon appeared. "Look over your
"Nice," he said, smiling.
This was almost BWCA-like [Boundary Waters Canoe Area],
for there were absolutely
no human sounds. If it weren't for the buoys marking
the swimming area and the adjacent handicapped fishing
platform, we might as well have been in the most
remote of wildernesses. We fished into darkness, each
staking claim for a "one last cast."
Either that, or neither of us wished to lose grip of
this precious father-son moment - well, we have that,
but we also have forged a deep friendship that
transcends our forty years of difference in age and
the kinship God provided us.
"This is such a great canoe," he said, of my old
cedar strip. "I can't tell you how much I needed to be
in it again."
"When we get to the pullout, don't jump. Okay?"
He laughed. "I won't. Promise."
At the landing we sat on the wooden dock with our
feet dangling in the water, resting, feeling full
darkness settle in around us. Mentally I was thinking of
how wonderful it was spending time fishing together
without having one of those unexpected and outrageous
Then I realized that we had. ~ JGW