Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fly Fishing and Father’s Day

As far back as I can remember, my dad and I went fishing together. Once every few weeks in the summer months, we would get up before sunrise. My dad and I would drive the hour or so to Busch’s Wildlife, a fishing preserve near my hometown of St. Louis Missouri. We would buy worms in white Styrofoam cup, spherical bobbers which were half white and half read, and lead weights and sharp hooks. After a short drive to one of the numbered lakes, I would take out my Zebco fishing rod, put on the bobber and worm, and cast out from the dock.

My father and I probably went to Busch’s Wildlife a couple dozen times in my childhood, and I cannot remember catching that many fish. Maybe we caught a six inch bass a few times. We were not very good fishermen. But even if the fishing was not so successful, something else important happened on those early morning fishing trips, I was able to spend time with my dad.

There is a famous Jewish teaching about parenting from the Talmud, the 5th Century collection of Jewish wisdom. The Talmud says that parents should teach their children three things: Torah (The Bible), a profession and how to swim. Parents teach children the Bible so that they can learn about God. A profession is necessary so that children can grow up and take care of themselves. Parents also show their children how to swim so that they can stay afloat in the world.

When fishing with my dad, I did learn about two of these topics from the Talmud: God and a profession. I listened to many stories from my dad about his faith and how God is a part of his life. My father also told me about his job, about the business world, and about how to conduct myself as an adult, by helping the poor, tipping well and reaching out to others. And I listened to others stories from my dad about how he grew up, how I was born and about my childhood. Fortunately, swimming never played much of a part in our fishing trips, as we always managed to stay on the dock.

My fishing trips with my father might best be understood by that famous proverb attributed to the Chinese: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” My father taught me how to fish, but I did not learn enough to feed myself. A few six inch bass will only go so far! However, those hours spent fishing with my dad provided me with sustenance in a different sort of way. It was my relationship with my dad that grew and developed on those fishing trips. By taking me fishing, my dad did feed me for life, not with fish, but with memories, advice and love that I will carry with me all the rest of my days.

Father’s Day is this Sunday. I am going to give my dad a call and remind him of our fishing trips to Busch’s Wildlife together. I might be obnoxious and tell him how much better of a fisherman I am now that I use a fly rod. I will also remember to thank him for those precious mornings we spent together casting worms into the clear Missouri lakes.

Happy Father’s Day Everyone!

P.S.: If you have a story about fishing with your dad, please post it as a comment. I would love to swap Father's Day Fishing Stories!


Anonymous said...

Well Rabbi, I don't remember any fishing trips with my father. He passed away when I was young and even though he was an avid fisherman we just never had the chance to go. I do remember that one of the other men in the neighborhood when he heard that my father had died came to the house and offered to take me fishing at a local lake. I don't remember catching any fish but I've never forgotten what he did for me that day. Lesson learned - never underestimate the difference one person can make in anothers life. 40 years later and I haven't forgotten the neighbor that took the time to do something considerate for the irish kid down the street. Its interesting how life works out, some are gifted in life and some go empty handed and go without and the experience of life teaches us more about grace than we could ever learn from the bible. Being a father has taught me more about my dad than I ever wanted to know, my kids have given me gifts that are simply irreplaceable....God's simple & kind grace and it teaches us to live with gratitude.
Happy fathers day,


Andy said...

My Dad was never a fisherman. I think I got the inspiration from reading. Here in the UK we had a series of children’s books called “Swallows and Amazons” written by a marvellous guy called Arthur Ransome (who also wrote my favourite fishing book – “Rod & Line”).
Anyway, Dad encouraged me as well as he could, and when I was about 11, used to take me in the car to more distant spots, and I tried to teach him using a spare rod.
He never really took to it, though he did try, but was going through his own problems at the time with his job, and my “difficult” elder sister.
So I continued on my own, but began to lose interest myself as I discovered girls, beer and rock and roll.
At the age of 35, I started fishing again, and took up fly-fishing. Again, Dad was very supportive, and would listen to me talking about it without showing any signs of boredom. A few years later, he and Mum moved from the old family house outside London to close to my new family house in the English countryside, and I had visions of us starting a new life doing things together again – even fly-fishing.
But his health was worse than he had let on, and he had a heart attack and died within a few days. Luckily, the move meant that Mum was now living close to us, and that enabled me to look after her for another 14 years.
So we never really did much fishing together, but every day I feel more like him and know that the enjoyment I get from fishing is the same as what he got from his love - gardening. He taught me to love the countryside and nature. He taught me to be kind and patient. He taught me so much.
But not fishing! I hope I’ve taught my daughters some of the same.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. And thanks for everything.

Jack's Shack said...

Nice post. I enjoyed it.