2017-04-21 / Columns


It was about more than just catching fish

If you haven’t seen it, I can imagine it would be hard to visualize.

Hundreds of people, all dressed up in goofy-looking waterproof pants standing shoulder to shoulder on the banks of a small creek with fishing rods in hand and there’s not a single line, hook or worm in the water.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, has their eyes glued to their watches, waiting for 8 a.m. to arrive — or at least until 8 a.m. arrives on someone else’s watch that happens to be a little faster.

Once the magical hour arrives, all those inactive fishing rods come alive at the exact same moment and hundreds of people who had been standing shoulder to shoulder suddenly find their lines tangled with the person’s next to them, or to a line tossed from the other side of the creek.

Muttering and swearing, some silent, some not, ensues when someone who is lucky enough to keep his or her line untangled actually catches a fish while a dozen other insanely jealous and frustrated anglers try to unravel their monofilament from a spaghetti-like knot.

Boy how I miss the First Day of Trout Season.

It’s an annual holiday in some cold weather states up north. The northern half of Pennsylvania celebrated their First Day this past Saturday. It’s an event that draws millions of anglers to streams, ponds and lakes, many of them stocked with hatchery-grown fish just for the occasion.

For the price of your fishing license, and sometimes a trout stamp, you get to keep five fish per day. When you think about how much prime fish cost at a fish market, the costs of catching your own is a bargain.

While every angler is no doubt hooked on the chase, as well as the feel of a fish fighting on the other end of a line, with age I’ve come to understand what I really was hooked on as an angler was the time I got to spend in the great outdoors, marveling at God’s creations, with people I loved to be around.

While one of my uncles and his sons were constant fishing companions, the First Day of Trout was always reserved for me and my father. This past weekend we were reminiscing about First Days gone by and my father’s memories immediately traveled to a private dock at a fantastic trout lake we used to fish.

My dad has his favorite corner of the dock, with plenty of room to cast and no other anglers’ lines to tangle.

There’s not many secrets to catching trout on a First Day. Most of them are very hungry and willing to bite. But some people have a knack for catching them with extra ease, and of somehow attracting the bigger ones. My dad was always one of them and if he wasn’t reeling in his first fish of the day by 8:01 a.m. it was always a surprise.

Getting ready for the First Day was almost as much fun as actually fishing.

You had to have all your gear sorted out days in advance. That meant numerous excuses to go to the tackle store, where I swear fishing lures are designed to catch more anglers than fish.

You had to have the car all packed up the night before. There were checklists to cross off.

Then there was the mental math you had to conduct for your alarm clock. How much time did you have to allot for travel? What time did you need to be creekside, pondside or lakeside in order to lay claim to your favorite fishing spot.

There was also coffee to brew and breakfast sandwiches to make. Egg, bacon and cheese on toast was my favorite. You’d wrap up those sandwiches, at least two or three per person.

Even when your hands smelled like trout and your finger nails were dirty from digging in the pack of worms, those sandwiches somehow tasted like a gourmet meal when you were sitting on the bank, enjoying the company of those around you, and once again marveling at God’s handiwork.

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