Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Sep 5, 2016

Since the first trips that I can recall fishing has been important to me for several reasons. The first and most apparent reason was that I saw how much my Dad enjoyed it and how much it obviously meant to him. That alone as a boy was enough to make me want to participate. Next was the chance to spend time with my Dad, uncles and a host of family friends. And most importantly, the enjoyment I personally experienced while fishing. Early on I realized that being on the water was something I loved as well, and early on I was fortunate enough to experience success. Those three things continue to mean more than words can often accurately reflect, even though roles have been reversed over the years as I now stand in the shoes of my Dad. At face value and from the outside looking in the scenario can appear to be nothing more than a father wanting to do what he likes to do, and taking the children adds to that. I can accept at times that may be the case. Yet for me the aspect of fishing and fishing with my children falls far from a selfish advancement of my own pursuits. And being now in my Dads shoes those realities have grown crystal clear as I've watched my children over the years. My hopes are, in my attempt at putting into words the values of fishing between generations, I do not fall into some mystic mindset that is only understandable in the abstract. Hopes are that a common chord is struck and I am not alone on an island with my thoughts.

When I am on water, I am "there" and only "there". Am I happier than when simply living my life? No. Does it make me forget my day-to-day life? No. What "is" there, is a connection with my surroundings. It's a connection with the flow of the water, or lack of if in a tube floating among lily pads and all that it encompasses. It is a connection with the moment I am standing in, a connection with my Dad who first brought me there, a connection with memories both long past and recent and if sharing the water with my kids a deeper connection with them as well. That connection does not go away once you leave the water. It forever resides in the catalogs of both your mind and the minds of those of whom you shared the water. It changes you. Not in any drastic way, but it provides your mind with another sense it may or may not desire to repeat; a sense that can only be experienced by physically being "there". For many it's a sense that your mind craves to repeat regularly. For others it's tucked away to be brought out later in life. And for others yet it's a sense that is experienced but no connection is made. The last I have experienced to be very much in the minority. Either way the seed gets planted.

Years ago I experienced some health issues that left me wanting to leave some of what made Dad "tick" behind. I began writing. Trying to put into words my time on the water from the earliest recollections I had. Those words eventually became a book. While that book contained many aspects of tying and fishing it more importantly contained the jewels of my time on the water, explaining why I fish and what it means to me. Something different that someday a great-grandchild may sit down with and come to find he-or-she now knows their grandfather better than they would have otherwise. This was brought home again this past summer.

My eldest daughter chose to try fly fishing. At 31, she sat beside me in a float tube and as I watched the smiles happen she was 7 again, standing beside me on a lake near Mt. St Helens. My youngest son shared opening day with me this past spring, and as I fought and landed a really fine fish, he was there beside me leaning in with body-English, talking me through playing the fish and smiling as big as me when taking the picture. The seed took. He's moved on past just himself, and being "there" means something more already. And while at the beach this year my kids all enjoyed sharing time surf fishing, both day and night. Whether holding a rod or not, there were happy smiles and good memories which included a new grandchild along with my little sister. And through all of it was my Dad, with his pale blue or green bucket cap and grin. You see....it was more than just extending his fishing when he smiled 50 years ago and untangled my spinning reel for the hundredth time. He was connecting....with his great-grandkids he would never meet.


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