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Lessons Learned While Fishing with Dad

Updated on June 27, 2014

When my Dad is fishing, all is right in the world with him.

He can go an entire trip without catching a fish, and he still considers the trip to be productive.

If the fish are not biting, I shift to other pursuits like laying in the shade and trying to stay hydrated, especially in the 100+ degree temperatures that come with Summer.

Dad continues to fish! When asked why the fish are not biting, he answers as if I already knew, "The patterns changed".

Then, he makes adjustments like changing baits, lures, fishing flies; reeling in slower, faster, or not at all; and/or moving to another location. He does this constantly until he has found the "pattern"!

Most times he finds the "pattern". But, when he does not, he meticulously notes the date, time, and conditions.

I suspect he does this to remind him what does not work for that situation so as not to make the same mistake again later.

I would say definitively that this is the case, except he has lost several notebooks containing those notes over the years.

That said, in the spirit of Fathers Day which is just around the corner, here are seven lessons I learned while fishing with Dad.

Do check them out and let me know if they describe your Dad, too!

PS: There are more but for the sake of brevity, I limited the lessons learned to seven.

My sister and I had some great times with Dad. We fished beaches, piers, jetties, lakes, rivers... ponds! His occupation required a number of re-locations throughout the United States giving us many different places to fish over the years.

Every place we moved, he quickly determined how to catch the prevalent fish pursued by local fishermen. Subsequently, there were countless times when we would fish well past the agreed upon time Dad had made with Mom.

Worse yet, it was odd that we would continue to fish while Dad conveniently forgot about the agreement.

1. Concept of Time

Since I was three years old, my Dad would take my sister and I fishing. He would take us wherever he fished as long as it was not "too" dangerous for us.

For us kids, we did not know any better, thinking "thirty minutes" equated to a length of time around sunset and varied depending on how the fish were biting.

If they were not biting, "thirty minutes" was usually just after sunset. If they were biting, "thirty minutes" was well after dark.

For example, with the sun setting in the background, I would ask Dad, "How much longer before we have to go home?"

Dad answered while simultaneously setting the hook, "Thirty minutes."

After a while, barely able to see the outline of my hand held in front of me, I would plead, "How much longer before we have to go home?"

Dad answered while working a Jitterbug as it gurgled on the water's surface, "Thirty minutes."

Lesson Learned: The concept of time does not pertain when the fish are biting; therefore, do not use fishing as a means to teach kids about the concept of time.

Not until I took my first timed exam that I learned what thirty minutes really meant - specifically, the teacher announced, "Thirty minutes remain for this exam; you must put down your pencils at the end of the allotted time!"

I look out the window and see it's still morning; therefore, in complete confidence, I know that I have plenty of time to finish... I was held back a grade courtesy of Dad and his concept of time!

2. Counting

As I grew older and wiser in the ways of Dad, I knew the concept of time meant little to him.

No longer did I fall for the "thirty minutes" answer when I wanted to leave for home.

Instead, I would ask persistently, "When are we going home?"

Dad answered while unhooking a fish that struck a Roostertail, "Just one more cast."

Several casts later... ranging between five to twenty casts, we would leave for home.

Lesson Learned: A fisherman's last cast of the day is not "just one more" cast. It's any number greater than one! Similar to teaching kids about the concept of time, I strongly suggest not using fishing to teach kids to count.

Fortunately, I was able to determine this before my next timed exam and understood "just one more" minute meant only one more minute. It's amazing what one learns when held back a grade. Thanks again Dad!

My Dad normally practices catch and release fishing. Often times, he prefers catching fish rather than eating them. However, there are two exceptions - Rainbow Trout and Striped Bass. In both cases, we will not leave until we have filled our daily limit.

Freezing rain, snow, and other winter conditions considered a hazard to most people will not change my Dad's view on achieving a limit of Rainbow Trout!

Torrential rain, blistering temperatures, and gale force winds will not change my Dad's view on achieving a limit of Striped Bass!

The goal is a daily limit; to achieve that goal, you must dress accordingly and bring the appropriate supplies with you to make it happen. If you fall short because you did not dress warm or ran out of supplies, too bad! You keep going until the goal is reached!

3. Setting and Achieving Goals

The only time you can leave early while fishing is when an Emergency Room visit is required as defined by Dad!

For example, when my Sister and I were skipping rocks while Dad setup our fishing poles, my Sister lost her footing and slipped into the path of a rock I had thrown. A bleeding head wound (only two stitches though) resulted.

Dad calmly put a bandanna on the wound and applied pressure. We then gathered our fishing equipment and headed to the Emergency Room. In this case, it was okay to leave early.

However, when Dad and I were fly fishing a stocked pond on a windy day, he lost control of his fly line and hooked himself in the ear. I had already limited out and was bundled warmly in a blanket out of the wind and keeping warm despite the below freezing temperatures. Dad needed two more Rainbow Trout to make his limit.

So, he called me over and had me take a look at it. I of course took a picture of it with my cell phone (capturing the moment) as well as to show it to him. It was a Gold Ribbed Hares Ear Nymph (GRHEN) size 16 embedded in his ear lobe. It almost looked like an earring!

What does Dad do? He has me cut the line, then re-ties another GRHEN size 16 on to his leader, and then begins fishing again. We leave when he catches his two Rainbow Trout to make his daily limit!

Worse yet, we get to the car. He takes one more look in the mirror at the GRHEN hanging on his ear lobe, and then he takes his fly fishing forceps and with a quick pull removes the fishing fly from his ear. No Emergency Room visit required. No need to leave early!

Lesson Learned: Once you set a goal, there is no excuse for quitting except for a health condition that requires an Emergency Room visit. That is, a bleeding head wound requires an Emergency Room visit; a size 16 GRHEN in the ear lobe does not... keep fishing!

4. A Greater Power

Dad and I decided to run a trotline one weekend to catch a few Catfish for a fish fry.

Putting out early Saturday morning in the jon boat, we baited the hooks and set the trotline.

Afterwards, we beached the jon boat and started wading the shallows with a cast net to catch more shad for bait.

While I worked one area for shad, I noticed dark clouds forming over the lake. Moreover, they were headed in our direction.

I pointed this out to Dad, who was busy preparing another trotline.

He looked where I pointed and simply said, "Just a cloud passing by." And then, he continued to work on the trotline.

Fifteen minutes later the cloud arrived and stayed.

We ran for the pickup and left the jon boat secured to a tree along the shore. We stayed in the pickup and waited until the rain let up two hours later.

If this happened once, maybe twice, I would leave it at that. But, Dad says the same thing every time rain clouds start forming.

True, they are clouds passing by, he just chooses to ignore them until he has to seek shelter!

Lesson Learned: A greater power exists as evidenced by the countless hours wasted while Dad and I sat in a pickup waiting for the cloud to pass by. Regardless of the day's weather forecast, the chance of rain increases ten fold it seems when we are fishing in an aluminum jon boat on any body of water! Willing Meteorology graduate students working on their Masters Thesis can contact me to schedule a field test!

5. Getting Back To Nature

There is nothing like fishing a river and working a fishing fly in the seams and riffles for Rainbow Trout.

Patience and perseverance come together when a scrappy Trout takes the offering! In short time, the Trout is netted and pictures taken.

The beauty of the river, the changing leaves of Autumn, the coolness in the air... Nature at it's finest! And in the middle of it all, you stand there taking in the scenery!

Until you see your Dad "getting back to Nature" behind one of the trees. Oh well, it was still a nice Rainbow Trout!

Lesson Learned: Every tree is a potential place to relieve oneself when getting back to Nature per Dad's instruction.

6. Bait Fishing

My Sister and Dad went fishing at a city pond one evening. They left shortly after Dad came home from work but well before Dinner.

The bite was on, and they were catching some nice size Catfish! So, I was surprised they were home by Dinner.

Normally, when the fish are biting, Dad stays well past dark (which also means Dinner). Mom then saves a plate in the microwave for Dad and for whoever he guilted into going with him. In this case, it was my Sister!

As we sat at the table, I looked at Dad with a questioning expression but he did not respond. He just kept eating his dinner in silence. I looked at my Sister; she shook her head with guilt in her eyes.

Later, after Dinner, my Sister and I talked about what happened.

She mentioned that they were catching some nice size Catfish in the 4-5 pound range at the city pond. Almost every cast they were getting strikes, and about every other cast, they were getting hook ups. But, only one in five were being landed.

Dad had brought Ultralight Spinning Gear with reels spooled with 4 pound test monofilament. So, they were having a hard time landing them.

Since they were having to re-bait often, they soon ran out of bait and called the trip short. This took me off guard as I recall Dad had a loaf of bread he had just bought from the grocery store on his way home. It's sole purpose was for bait.

My Sister explained that Dad was giving her the "thirty minutes" answer as well as the "just one more cast" when she mentioned her stomach was growling and that she was hungry.

Since the fish were biting, she knew Dinner would be after dark and a plate would be sitting in the microwave. Not wanting to wait till then, she decided to have a few slices of bread to help quell the hunger pangs. Unfortunately, she had more than a few, and they soon ran out bait.

Lesson Learned: In Dad's own words, "Don't eat the bait!" ... enough said.

Does Murphy's "Fishing" Law apply to you?

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7. Murphy's "Fishing" Law

Murphy's Law states, "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."

Murphy's "Fishing" Law as described by Dad says, "The one lure (or bait) that is catching fish will be the one that you do not have."

To mitigate the Law's effect on a fishing trip, my Dad will bring two or more of every lure (or bait).

For example, in preparation for a fishing trip for Striped Bass at a local dam's tail race, Dad and I stopped at a sporting goods store with a list of items for the trip.

This was the first time I had gone with him fishing for Striped Bass, so the list looked excessive but I figured it was Dad being Dad again.

I recall numerous Rat-L-Traps, Pencil Poppers, Flukes, Jigs, Bombers, and Slabs in varying sizes and colors; terminal tackle like casting floats, hooks, swivels, leaders, and weights; and then the bait. For bait, we had frozen Shad, Shrimp, Squid, even Chicken Livers as well as a cast net.

I asked him, "Why so much stuff?"

He looked at me with a smile, "Never fished the tail race, so I'm not sure what they are biting on."

This took me off guard as I thought he had fished the tail race before. So, I asked, "How do you decide which lures and bait to buy?"

He smiled again, "The Internet."

He then showed me his notes. He had printed every post from several fishing forums related to the tail race. And in yellow highlighter, noted every lure and bait used by anyone posting online.

He also took note of key tips and techniques described by others.

Lesson Learned: You cannot fight Murphy's "Fishing" Law but you can lessen its impact on your fishing trip by thorough research (even it means reading hundreds of posts on a fishing forum) and then bringing lures and baits that have worked for others.

Be sure to purchase at least two of everything and be prepared to lose lures and fishing rigs. You eventually will find the "pattern". But, once found, be prepared to start losing the lure that is catching fish or to run out of the bait that they are biting on!

Happens often enough that now I tend to keep two of each lure in my tackle box... Thanks Dad!

PS: We ended up catching one limit of Striped Bass. The lure that worked - a Blue and Chrome Rat-L-Trap in 7/8 oz. We had four of them when we started. We left with none, and the reason why we only had one limit.

Happy Fathers Day!

Often times, I will stop fishing just to watch Dad.

It's as if I am watching a five year old who expects every cast means a fish will bite.

The problem is Dad still believes this!

So, to my Dad, I appreciate the lessons I have learned while fishing with you!

Happy Fathers Day, and... Good Luck and Good Fishing!

PS: Video below shows Lesson 3 - Setting and Achieving Goals in effect. Caught four, fell in the water, only 40 degrees. Caught one more for a limit. No Emergency Room visit needed!

Thanks Dad... One More For a Limit!


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