In the summer, I was free to roam the entirety of the tiny Midwestern village, and do things with my favorite person on earth, my Grandpa. But fishing with Grandpa was the best thing ever.
He got excited about fishing. I got excited about fishing. There was over sixty years difference in our ages, but the excitement of fishing was something we shared on an equal basis. It was a huge bonding factor in our lives.
On fishing day I got up right after Grandpa, around six AM. I so seldom got up that early it that it seemed like a different world to me. The sun was so low, but so bright, and it was only about 65 degrees, instead of the normal 85-90. The grass was wet. The air was cool. I heard the neighbor’s chickens letting everyone know it was morning. It was hazy and surreal.
Grandpa cooked breakfast for both of us. Anything my grandparents cooked tasted better than anyone else’s cooking. I often spoke of this fact, which irritated my mom to no end. The customary bacon and eggs hit the spot.
We fished for carp, a fish that a lot of people don’t like because of their boniness. But if you fillet them properly, they’re great.
They get huge and will give you a heck of a battle as you try to land them. They are a crafty species and they like to play around with the bait before chopping down, very unlike a catfish that will take the bait (sometimes, even swallowing it) and take off with your line.
Carp test the bait, and test your patience. It takes special skills to set the hook with a taught line and snap of the wrist. Then you have to be able to play out the drama of letting the fish run with the line a while and reel it in for a while, until you bring him over the drop net held by your fishing partner.
There was nothing better than getting our gear loaded and bait made. Since we fished for carp, we used treble hooks and dough balls, i.e., bait made from a batter mix. Besides adding water to the batter, we would add special ingredients, like extracts, cinnamon, wine, liquor (purchased solely for fishing, since everyone in the family was a teetotaler.) It usually spelled really good.
We fished at what was called a pay lake. That meant you paid a fee to get in to fish at their well-stocked ponds. It was essentially a day camp for fishermen. The one we went to had two lakes, a few picnic tables, outhouses, and a concession stand where you paid your fee, and got information about how the fishing was that particular day.
We found our spot and set up our chairs, tackle box, cooler, special fishing rod holders with a bobber on the line below our rods. We made ourselves comfortable so everything was within reach, so as to enjoy the comforts of life, while being undistracted from fishing. We were setting up shop at our outdoor fishing office.
Some fishermen were even more elaborate with drink holders on their chairs, tackle box below or beside the chair, a slot for an umbrella, so you could fish in the rain. The goal was to be so busy fishing, you would have to have things handy, so as not to miss any opportunity to land one of those big carp.
I was young enough that I would occasionally get distracted, and begin daydreaming or chattering. But usually, it was snacks that distracted me. I loved going back to concession stand for oatmeal crème pies, pop, and others things to compliment our lunch packed in the cooler.
Grandpa and I would talk about fishing, or anything. I had everything I loved in one place, oatmeal crème pies, fishing gear, and Grandpa in one happy place, doing my favorite thing, fishing.