To become a fisherman I am undergoing or struggling through another evolutionary phase, it is a life long process, which started when I was a kid. My dad tried to give me a jump start by skipping the stream angler phase however he learned you can not skip any steps in turning a little kid into a fisherman especially when you are starting him on a journey that will last a lifetime. I should explain to become a fisherman there are specific phases or steps. Fishermen are proficient in all aspects and techniques of fishing. A fisherman respects the resource, the written as well as the unwritten rules of fishing. He respects the "space" of other fishermen not crowding or infringing on someoneÕs spot. A fisherman does not litter the stream or lake and usually picks up any trash he sees.
I have told the story before about my first trip with my dad to Findley Lake when I was four years old. He rented a rowboat, skipping the stream phase of my development. I cried in protest so loud that he rowed straight back to shore. I laugh when I recall that day I can remember my dad trying to calm me down so we could fish. He tried to get me out in a boat one other time; it was on Lake Erie. No success in that attempt either, and as quick as we got on the water we were back on shore. That start was a small mistake and I can understand my father's impatience to make me into a fisherman however the stream phase of the evolution can not be skipped. Thank goodness he never gave up and realizing his mistake he got me back on course for my life long evolutionary journey to become a fisherman. I actually recall going to Cassadaga Lake outlet as a little kid to fish for sunnies. There were outings to 18-mile creek where we fished. I do not recall any successes on 18-mile as a little kid, this stream is still a challenge for me. I evolved into a trout angler in Allegheny State Park on Quaker Run. It was on these waters that I learned how to detect a bite and set the hook. During those summer vacations during my youth in the park it was my cousin, Paul, and my mission to catch the Friday dinner. We took the mission seriously and thatÕs all we did was fish until we had enough for two families to eat. It kept us busy and out of trouble, not that we were trouble makers.
Before the Lake Erie tributary regulations the trout opener was April first. You could not fish open water prior to that. It was a tradition for everyone or anyone who knew anything about fishing or ever thought about wetting a line. The anticipation of that opening day and the excitement for a little kid was special. Some of the excitement was lost when we started fishing the Great Lake tributaries year round. I remember lessons in etiquette and good sportsmanship. On one opener we camped near Allegheny State Park. On Quaker Run I found a landing net; my dad told me to put it back where I found it because the angler who lost it would surely return looking for his net. We returned to our camp and our folding chairs we had left in camp were "borrowed"É we left before the person could return them.
At some point during one of those summer trips to Allegheny, my dad reintroduced me to fishing from a boat it was on Redhouse Lake. It was a natural progression, or evolution in the journey to become a fisherman. However, I never really got into boat fishing until I was about twelve years old. My dad bought a boat to fish Lake Erie. It was a project boat, a sixteen foot wooden Penn Yan. It was probably about ready for the bonfire but my dad saw something special in that boat. Every member of our family put hours into sanding, cleaning, painting, staining and sealing. When he finished the boat project it was a beautiful craft. The front deck was mahogany and it looked showroom perfect. I believe it was all the work and getting to know the craft in such intimate detail that gave me a sense of security when we launched it on Lake Erie. It was in that boat that my dad introduced me to Lake Erie smallmouth bass, to this day I still love to fish for bass. I can remember a lot of trips out to the ÒreefÓ and drifting over house sized boulders barely visible. Perch runs to the weedbed were a favorite trip; it was all part of the evolution into a fisherman carefully orchestrated by my dad.
Now as I struggle to catch a fish from the bank of a stream I have come full circle, evolved to the stream again to become a more complete all round fisherman this time with a bit more sophistication and a fly rod. My father has retired to Florida and canÕt be on the streams with me today, however I am armed with all those lessons he taught me during my youth. I guess the point of this reflection on my journey is for all you dads; there is no better journey you can set your kids upon than to become a fisherman.
By Rodney Long
Posted on Tue, December 29, 2015
by Brian plecas