BOB EASTLEY: The fishing trip

Bob-Eastleyhave fishing genes. Not the “J” type that bunch up in the legs of your waders, but the ones that make it difficult to focus on mowing the lawn. They certainly aren’t the recessive variety. I got a double whammy from my dad on one side and my maternal grandfather on the other. Luckily, my passion was shared by my first cousins, so growing up was a fish-fest.

Dad was a good bass and pike fisherman, and very proficient at dropping a Mepps spinner into tight spots while stream fishing for trout. My grandfather gave us our first taste of fly fishing. When I was a kid, dad, grandpa and an occasional uncle would hit the Pere Marquette or the Pine or some local creek to catch enough trout for breakfast the next morning. You can keep your beef Wellington. If you’ve never had a creel full of brook trout fried in bacon grease, along with toast, juice and a big pile of fried potatoes and onions, put it on your bucket list.

Like all kids, I just had to pester. Every time they headed out on one of these adventures, I begged to go along. Every time it was the same response. “Wait ‘till you’re a little older.” Fishing for bluegills off the dock was one thing. Stream fishing was more complicated.

Well, one day, out of the blue, it happened. I got the nod. I felt like a relief pitcher going in for his first big league appearance. Bring in the right-handed seven year-old. They were going to try a little crik north of town, and this one was small and shallow enough that I probably wouldn’t fall in and drown. I hardly slept. At 4 o’clock in the morning, I was up sorting through my inventory, making sure I had enough hooks and sinkers, checking my reel and waiting for the stupid sun to come up.

Dad, grandpa and I had breakfast and headed out, getting to the stream at about 8 a.m. It was a gorgeous day, chilly, sunny, a few mosquitoes looking for a snack and the promise of fish. Dad headed upstream in waders, deftly throwing spinners as he went. Gramp was in old boots, and planned to creep downstream, drifting worms into the lairs of some unsuspecting trout. I also had a worm rod. He sat me at the downstream end of a big culvert where the creek flowed into a nice hole. Then he explained, in words I could understand, that great rewards come to those who were diligent. He headed off, saying he’d be back in about an hour.

I had the attention span of a beagle puppy. I dunked worms for about four and a half minutes, and then started getting antsy, sure that I was missing out on something. I decided to abandon the mission and go find gramps. Picture a 4-foot kid carrying a 6-foot rod with 8 feet of monofilament through 10-foot brambles. I fell in the mud, tore my shirt, got my line hopelessly snarled, and was a complete mess by the time I finally found him.

He said he’d be happy to trade, so he went and sat by that culvert, and I wandered downstream, dropping my line into any hole with enough water to float a worm. I stuck with it for 45 minutes, making just enough noise to scare every living creature within a quarter mile. And then, with a heavy heart and a not-so-heavy creel, I headed back to the culvert.

Some lessons are learned in school. Others are only available in the classroom of life. I found out a little something about patience that day. When I returned, a disheveled mud, bug and mono magnet, my grandfather just smiled and asked how I’d done. I looked at the ground and mumbled something about them not biting. So, he opened up that old wicker creel and showed me the finest limit of gorgeous 10-12 inch rainbows and brook trout you’ve ever seen. He’d even thrown back some smaller ones.

I tried to be happy for him, but I’m sure I looked pretty pouty and low. He wasn’t worried. He told me there’d be plenty of other days. As usual, he was right.

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