It is one of my most regrettable mistakes as a father. I never taught my children how to fish.
Unlike my brothers Willie and Ralph, I never truly appreciated fishing. Raising my seven brothers and sisters without my Mom, our Dad just didn’t have the time to take us fishing. My Mom passed away at a very young age from cancer.
Somehow Willie and Ralph learned the art of fishing. And most important, my brothers passed onto their children and my sons the Zen-like quality of being outside breathing fresh air, being around water and enjoying the warmth of the sun and companionship of family and friends.
Thanks to my brothers and their children, they took my sons under their fishing wings and taught them the thrill of hearing your fishing bell jingle and seeing a tight fishing line on your pole. My twin sons Sean and Aaron are excellent fisherman now with no thanks to me.
Don’t remind me. I have felt fishing guilt my whole father life.
Again, thanks to my brothers, one of our family traditions is to go fishing at Buena Vista Lake the day after Thanksgiving. Our best guess is we have been practicing this tradition for about 20 years. With the exception of my young nieces, the fishing trips were comprised mainly of us guys. Most of the women in our family would go shopping on Black Friday to catch all the best sales or just relax in their quiet homes after the loving chaos and mayhem of Thanksgiving. The guys would go to Buena Vista to ostensibly catch dinner.
We kept the fishing tradition alive this year. At one point I looked down the shore line and, almost as far as I could see, it was my family and family of the heart gathered around the tailgate of their trucks, sitting in groups in their lawn chairs and waiting for the sound of the fishing bell on someone’s fishing pole.
Just out of curiosity, my niece Samantha and I counted how many family and friends joined us on this unusually warm fishing day. We counted 51 people. That is our best guess because the children continually scattered and played throughout the shore line.
The typical scenario is the adults show the youngsters how to hook their line and cast out into the murky waters. The children stand intently with their line for a few minutes but then the sound of their cousins playing tag, football or catch off in the distance is just too strong. They abandon their lines and leave the adults to watch over their fishing poles. The children may be intensely playing but if their bell jingles and their name is called out, through a cloud of dust a pack of children come running as fast as they can to see what their cousin pulls out of the water. And to our glee, the children normally catch the most fish.
I’m smiling now thinking about the looks on the faces of my nephews, nieces and my 5-year-old grandson Ariyon who caught their first fish at Buena Vista.
And since I don’t fish, what did I usually do? I normally stood around and asked the others if they needed a cold drink or if they would like some sunflower seeds or potato chip appetizers before breakfast.
This year my teenage grandson Cameron and I took over the breakfast cooking responsibilities. Cameron freely admits he doesn’t normally cook at home, but after preparing breakfast for 51 hungry people, he can add this trip to his cooking resume. My brother Willie and his sons prepared lunch, my cousins from Corcoran and Tulare and my nieces all brought food. We fished, drank, ate, and listened for fishing bells all day.
I read where renowned poet Henry David Thoreau said, “Many people go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not the fish they are after.”
Thank you, Mr. Thoreau. Teaching my children how to cast a line was a small part of showing them fishing is a means to bond and build the importance of family.
I still feel guilty … but just not as much now.
Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work normally appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.