Memories by Richard Bleil
Fishing is a peaceful experience. Especially when it takes ten years for a catch.
Oh, that’s not really true. We caught two things. Well, mom caught two things.
For a decade, we would rent a cabin in Michigan on Burt Lake. My family would go for a week every year for ten years, my dad, mom, sister and me. Fishing is a great bonding experience for a lot of sons and dads, but dad always got up very early and dragged me out of bed to go fishing with him. I just didn’t like getting up that early, but he said it was when the best fishing was. I couldn’t tell; seems just as easy to catch nothing later in the day.
Dad was a “modern man” I guess. He had a fishing box full of tackle, and we always used artificial bait. Some of them had fancy tails and were made of a smelly rubber that was supposed to attract fish, but, of course, it never did. Some of the lures were simple metal, meant to flash and attract fish. He had one, in fact, that was about a quarter inch thick and quite heavy. It is to this day my favorite. It never worked, but trying it one day, dad didn’t release the line in time, and it snapped his pole in half.
The first year we went out, dad rented a boat but not a motor. Dad paddled and paddled for about twenty minutes to get away from shore when I looked over, and saw a man wading in the lake about as far from the shore as we were. That was the last year did failed to rent a motor.
When he did get a motor, I still recall the day that we were fishing, and he decided to change position. Growing up, I was the one that nobody ever listened to, much like today. For example, one day I had my line out, and he decided to relocate. I asked him to wait, and began frantically trying to reel my line in. Of course, he didn’t wait, and I continued frantically reeling in the line. He maneuvered to move a new direction, with me still yelling “stop stop wait”, and the line, at this point almost in, went behind the motor. Of course, the line got sucked in and tangled up in the motor. It took dad ten minutes to untangle it, yelling at me the entire time for getting it tangled in the motor.
Ugh, my family.
In ten years (yes, literally) the only one of us to ever catch anything was my mother. The first time was quite funny. She reeled in the line and found a clam that had clamped down on the hook at the curve. The sharp end was safely away from the clam’s innards. It was just hanging onto the edge. Dad pulled the hook away, and it tried to spit on us. I guess I can’t blame it. This was maybe five or six years in, and while people were pulling Walleye out of the leg to the left and right of us, it was our great victory.
The last year, mom decided to try something completely different. She found an actual factual worm and decided she wanted to try live bait. Sure enough, she caught, with that worm, the only Walleye we caught in a decade of effort. I think that’s when dad gave up. This was sometime in the ‘70’s, and I think the fact that his wife, a woman, caught the only fish was the final straw.
The June Flies were fascinating, though. The first time we went there, they swarmed the car. Mom wouldn’t let any of us out and insisted that dad go to the owner to find out what they were before we stepped out. These flying insects were the gentlest creatures I think I’ve ever seen. They lived, as I understand it, for about a day, and could land on the water surface. They swarm around and just land on anything, or anybody, that is nearby. They don’t bite, and you can just pick them up by their wings and place them anywhere you desire. Usually, they’re bad omens for fishing because they’ll land on the lake and the fish will eat them, but apparently, they were only bad omens for us as nobody else had trouble catching fish.
Other bugs weren’t so nice. They had these huge black flies that would just fly right into you, and immediately fly off. In this brief time, they would bite, painfully, resulting in large welts. And they had a kind of mosquito that always drove me crazy because they always buzzed your ears before biting, and they, too, bit hard and quite painfully.
Maybe this is why even today I am not a huge fan of fishing. I don’t know what I miss more, the painful annoying mosquitoes, the kamikaze biting flies, the early mornings that I couldn’t sleep in or the decades of sitting on the water to no avail.