My dad would be ashamed. My grandmother would be appalled. My brother would be amazed.

Here it is, and I’ve yet to make a serious attempt at going fishing. That’s not how I was raised.

Dad was a consummate fisherman, and he brought me up to be the same. As far back as I can remember, Dad was taking me to the river. Early on, he just fitted me out with a sapling a length of line, a hook and a worm, and I caught the biggest crappie of my life from a deep hole on the James River. 

From there, I graduated to cane poles and countless visits to creeks along Dad’s cow breeding routes. He always carried fishing tackle in his car trunk.

After we moved to the farm near Elkland, we learned stretches of both the Niangua and Pomme de Terre rivers as well as our own backyards. We were no strangers to McDaniel and Fellows lakes, neither the Lake of the Ozarks or Pomme de Terre. Scarcely a week went by that didn’t find us fishing somewhere.

Other dads took their sons to ball games. Ours took us fishing — a lot.

Grandpa and Grandma Hamilton were almost as bad. They had a boat and Grandma, who grew up on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, was the worst. She loved to fish, especially on Table Rock Lake.

Now, my brother Russell wasn’t much of a lake fisherman. He was a free-flowing river angler. 

While the rest of us parked our poles in forked sticks along a big fishing hole, Russell waded and plied the waters both up and downstream with hand-tied flies. When he moved to New Mexico, those skills made him a top-notch angler for wild mountain trout, which he routinely caught and released for another day’s sport.

For many years, I was similarly true to my fishing heritage, frequenting rivers, ponds and lakes nearly every week. But, I was more like my dad than my brother. I fished for something to eat — bass, perch, goggle eye, crappie, catfish, carp, suckers, drum, trout or whatever. If I could catch it, I could figure a way to cook it.

Then, one day I just sort of stopped going. I’m not sure why. Partly it was after we lost our daughter. Fishing no longer seemed so important. A few years after that, I lost my dad, my lifelong fishing buddy. For years since, I’ve tried to stir up the fishing passion I knew as a younger man; but, it just doesn’t yet seem that important.

I have other things to do — a yard to mow, garden to tend, grandkids to mind and so forth.

I guess we all change as we age; but Dad’s zest for fishing never waned. Grandma’s may have, but Russell’s didn’t, either.

Maybe, if I look hard enough, I can find mine again. I just have to convince myself I have the time — because I do — that it’s not just too much work — because it isn’t — and there are still plenty of places to fish. 

I’ve been pondering all those things, plus that concern about honoring a family tradition. What would Dad, Grandma and Russell say if they could see me now?

Time to get those poles out of the corner, I reckon.

Jim Hamilton is a freelance writer and former editor of the Buffalo Reflex. Contact him at © James E. Hamilton, 2020.

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