November 8th, 1999

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories. . .

Fathers and Sons, Sons and Fathers

By Don Cianca

Can you remember your very first experience relating to fishing? How you were launched into your fishing passion? Let me tell you about mine.

World War II had not started and it was summertime in Chicago. I lived with my parents and grandparents on the second floor of a two story building in the heart of Chicago. Any outdoor experience I would gather there was confined to the backyard of a 25-foot lot that separated the brick garage from the house in which we lived. Adjacent houses with similar backyards confined my activities within the few square feet that made up my outdoors. The neighborhood was primarily made up of Italian immigrants and first generation Americans. My family was part of that group.

My Grandfather did not immigrate directly to Chicago. He had gone from Northern Italy to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where mining for copper and iron ore was the lure which brought other immigrants from Finland, Norway and Sweden. Although classified as a miner, my Grandfather was actually an adzman. He cut the trees and with his adz, a tool similar to an axe, shaped them into the shoring timbers used within the mines. While there my father and his sister were born and raised. Dad enjoyed the woods and streams that laced the area. The depression years found the entire famly moving south to Chicago for better employment opportunities. Being honest and hardworking people the move was basically good and my Grandfathers wisdom ultimately benefitted his family.

My dad married a Chicago girl; a second generation American like dad. She however, was a city girl and had never seen the wooded environment where dad had been raised. There were a few summer vacation trips to Michigan taken when I was little more than an infant. Dad was proud to show where he had grown up and related many stories of the fun he had there. As I got a little older, my father began his campaign to get me ready to eventually join him on some of his future fishing trips.

Level wind reel and short tubular steel bait casting rods were in the norm in the late thirties. Yes, there were hardware store varieties of bamboo flyrods too. They were not part of my dad's arsenal however. One Sunday afternoon, before the start of World War II, I was taken to the backyard and told I was going to learn to use a fishing rod. Dad brought out the short rod and it's economy model Pflueger reel and proceeded to show me how to hold it and what to do in order to avoid the dreaded "backlash." An empty wooden fruit crate with its open side up was placed at the far end of the yard. Dad tied a square nut from a bolt onto the end of the line and handed the assembly to me and said, "Okay, cast and make the nut go into the crate."

I don't remember how many backlashes I created or how many times I cast the line and nut, there were many I'm sure. Eventually, it became easier and easier.

In fact, as my confidence increased, it was no longer a chore and if anything it became a game of sorts. Therefore, at eight years old I was ready and able to join my dad if invited.

It took me many years to realize my dad had his share of wisdom too. First, he taught me to be able to handle a fishing rod and equipment so I would not be a burden if I were allowed to join him and other adult fishing partners. Second, he whet my appetite so fishing had become an insatiable desire that has lasted me all my life. (It was also a good way to discipline his son when an opportunity presented itself.)

While it was no doubt a joy for him as a father to have his son join him on fishing outings, decades later, after I had moved to Montana, the joy became mine when I was able to have my father join me.

Today, I remember my last experience fishing with my father more than I remember the first. I also regret there were not more of them now that he is gone. Why do we wait until it is too late to realize we have missed opportunities?

Have you thought about taking your dad fishing? ~ Don Cianca (aka U.D.)

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