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!