I don’t remember the first time grandpa took me fishing. It is more that I remember the every time. All the experiences rolled together into a bundle of happy times. Pa did all my dirty work though. The squiggling torture of the earth worm being placed on the hook, the slimy removal of my catch from the same hook, and the ultimate gross factor of producing a clean, edible fish. From there, Grandma took over the production, frying up even the tiny sunfish so I could feel the satisfaction of eating food I caught. The thing is, what I did barely counted as the real work of fishing. I just threw a line in from the sunny confines of the fishing boat and watched my bobber as I worked on my tan and swivel ankle bracelet. And then fishing went dormant in my life, with only the swivels to remind me each summer of the ones that got away.
My grandparents are long gone now, they aren’t around to witness this new hatch of fishing energy. I’ve traded worms and bobbers for flies, simple little concoctions of yarn and feathers that emerge on my vise at my mother’s old desk. I’ve abandoned the reel, once necessary on my lake expeditions with Pa to bring in the northerns and walleyes. But now the trout and I dance together on a line without the nuisance of clicking reel. And when the trout succumbs to my net, I’m the one that says a prayer of gratitude as I carefully remove my fly. Some of my dance partners go back to the water and some go on to become a meal. I make it all happen. A clean line. But my memories of Pa and I in that boat are always there just below the surface of the water I stand in, and sometimes I swear I see Grandma, all smiles, waiting at the shoreline to see what we bring in and glad it isn’t more sunfish.