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by Jennyj
Rated: 13+ · Prose · Parenting · #1609667
fun memories of my dad!

One of my fondest memories will always be going fly fishing with my dad. We did this during my high school and college years at a recreational lake known as Lake Maumelle outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. For dad, it was an escape from the corporate world that claimed most of his time; for me, it was a diversion from my care-free life as a student, and a chance to flirt with boys, if there happened to be any around. I didn't know that it was fly fishing that we were doing--I just saw it as a lot of random casting for unseen fish. An excuse to drive the boat around the lake and gaze at the scenery.

There really did not seem to be any actual fish in that lake, but pictures hanging in the marinas indicated lots of recent prize catches;there must have been some fish in there somewhere. I never had a chance to see any fish from that lake, live or otherwise. I'm sure dad never did either; it had to be a matter of faith for us that fish did in fact live there.

I'm sure that at this point, I should mention a few words about the boat. Far from being a rugged, seasoned fishing boat with a great history of big catches, it was actually an aging, fading party barge which actually belonged to the company my dad was president of. No one to my knowledge had any idea of how old it was, where it had come from, or even how this serious insurance company had even come into possession of it in the first place. And, we weren't complaining--in exchange for putting up with a little mystery and some unanswered questions, we were tightly and happily in the grasp of some good times. Needless to say though, the boat was not exactly seaworthy. Sometimes, I wondered if it were even lakeworthy. During some of the fierce spring storms experienced by that part of Arkansas, the boat was fond of untying itself from its moorings and being blown across the lake, to be found much later, adrift on the water, or more likely still, crashed into the side of one of the islands in the lake. Always. incredibly, unhurt wherever it was found. When we first began to visit the boat, it was actually uglier than it was later in life; it was a fading red-and-blue. Some years later, dad commandeered some of our extra metal porch furniture paint (a shocking blue color) and had the boat painted. And his little homemade boat table, made from plywood and the wrought-iron remnants of a collapsible table. I still have that little table--I can't bear to part with it. Despite its small size, it weighs about 50 pounds because of the wrought-iron leg apparatus. I mention the table not only because it matched the boat so perfectly, but also because it was given the honor of carrying dad's tackle box and any picnic lunch we had brought, and usually a thermos of bitter coffee (bitter only because it was unsweetened but did have liquid fake cream to "flavor" it).

This brings me to the point where I must detail the elaborate preparations involved in organizing even a short adventure on the boat. Besides the unseen logistics of my dad's getting away from the office early, we always had an immense amount of "packing" to do. For this, my dad kept an ancient '69 Chevy Impala with a trunk the size of a queen sized bed. I think that at one point in its life, it had been gold-colored. He had originally bought the car, used, for me to drive around during high school, but when he had a chance to drive it himself, he realized what fun it was to drive it, with its 8-cylinder engine and incredible trunk storage space. It was never anything great to look at, even after he had it painted, but then again, appearances were never important to him. It was fun to drive, and probably powerful enough to climb a tree. And, he was able to persuade both of us that it had a dangerous amount of "play" in the steering and would have to stay at home with him when it came time for me to go away to college. As far as our packing went, we always had to pack some sort of lunch, no matter what time of day it was. My dad made the most wonderful sandwiches, so there were always several of those. To the sandwiches, he would add a bag of chips for us to split, and usually a stale doughnut or brownie from his favorite bakery, also for us to share. The daily paper and whatever stuff I planned to bring along were also included. And, of course, his fishing gear--several rod-and-reel units, and his enormous tackle box full of his lures and plastic worms. I was never fond of those worms, even though he had worms in every color under the rainbow, for some reason. We usually had to lug at least one battery along for the boat. We often brought two, just in case.

One particularly memorable day, we were trolling around the lake's shores and doing our usual mysterious casting. I had become rather proficient at the casting by this time, and the dreaded back-lash of the reel was a thing of the past. I am sure, in retrospect, that I was unique in my fly fishing experiences as a city girl at the age when most kids my age wouldn't be caught dead or alive hanging out with a parent. But I thought my dad was very nearly perfect, and his next action that day amazed me. He gave a mighty cast, and caught a low-hanging tree branch with his favorite bait. No matter how hard he pulled, he couldn't loosen his bait from the tree branch. I guess he could honestly say that he had caught a "big one" that day, one that beat all the weights previously caught in that lake! We saw that poor lure many more times when we passed by that spot, and always chuckled.

My dad is gone now, and I've lost my fly-fishing partner. I haven't even tried it in 19 years. I am sure that my accomplished back-lash, which I was so proud of having conquered in the 1980's, will return like a bad plague if I am ever lucky enough to try my casting again. I didn't realize then, and I barely grasp now, how all of that random casting by my dad was maybe part of a larger picture of his life, casting about for good!
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