Remember the childhood joy of fishing?
I do! In fact, nothing compares to my fishing memories.
For me, a day of fishing began with the loud, clanging noise of a giant alarm clock. It was such a startling, all-consuming sound, almost terrifying. There was no such thing as a snooze button. So I jumped out of bed instantly, begging my daddy to mercifully stop the clanging torture. Somehow my sister managed to sleep through that noise — every single time.
I’m not quite sure, but she probably slept through the smell of bacon frying and pancakes bubbling on the stove as well. But I am sure that the smell of coffee brewing got the best of my little sister even back then. So, after a wonderful, syrup-laden breakfast eaten in the predawn light of a Saturday morning, my daddy, my sister, and I set out for the bank of some long-forgotten pond, just in time to cast our hooks in the water at sunrise.
I don’t know what was most fun — two silly sisters squealing over the nasty, oozing goo of our bait worms, watching Daddy patiently put his fishing pole down a million times in order to untangle our lines, or the thrill of catching a tiny, squirming bream no bigger than the palm of our hands. Maybe the best part came later, when Daddy bragged and called us “his littler fishermen.”
Yes, what love-filled memories! What pure and utter joy!
Those distant, sweet memories came flooding back to me recently as I stood knee deep, fly fishing in the cool, flowing waters of East Tennessee’s Hiwassee River. Or should I say attempting to fly fish? It was my very first experience fishing for river trout. And what an experience it was. I felt just like a child again, back on those early morning daddy/daughter fishing trips.
This fishing adventure did not start with a clanging alarm clock though. Instead, I was traveling with a few fellow journalists, and we were blessed with the guidance of a professional fly fishing guide.
With the help of this trusty (and very, very patient) guide from Reliance Fly and Tackle, we reveled in the scenic beauty of this Tennessee mountain river. After an initial group lesson and a one-on-one tutorial, our guide positioned each of us in a separate spot along the Hiwassee.
Finally on my own but in sight of the guide, I cast my line. Forget the lure of catching a trout; my main objectives were simply to stay upright and keep my line untangled. I prayed sincerely not to fall into the river or require rescue and resuscitation.
It was really hard to keep my mind on those objectives because of God’s presence all around me. It was such a time of reverence and awe for me. I could not stop grinning. How amazing that the God of the Universe loved us enough to create something so majestic (and yet so simple and joyful) as fishing. And there I was right in the middle of that river, in the middle of His glory and goodness.
How could I possibly top this glorious fly-fishing memory?
After a bit of recuperation from that Tennessee trip filled with fly fishing, mountain hiking, zip-lining, and late-night spelunking, I took my grandson, Tyler Reed, on his first real fishing trip. Well, actually, his dad took him fishing, and I got to tag along.
Our trip didn’t begin with pancakes bubbling on the griddle though. We just ran by a fast-food restaurant for some biscuits and headed to our local bait shop, where Mr. Clay hooked us up with a cane pole and a basket of crickets. Oh, and some free bubble gum and a big hug. We can’t forget that. He also made us promise to bring back a picture of Tyler Reed’s first catch.
We fished all morning with the joy and intensity that only a four-year-old can muster. After four hours of constant questions, silly jokes, tangled lines, lost corks and escaped crickets, Tyler Reed finally got his fish. Oh the joy of a little boy and his daddy reeling in that gigantic, wiggling three-inch bream. Nothing compares.
Tyler Reed may not remember this fishing trip, and that’s OK. Hopefully, there will be many, many more daddy/son fishing trips. But I kind of think that for Tyler Reed this day may be a keeper when it comes to memories. He has already told his fishing tale multiple times, with the size of his catch growing larger with every telling. A true fisherman.
For me, the joy won’t be remembered by the size of the fish or even by the precious picture I snapped as my boys reeled in their whopper of a fish. I will forever connect the joy of this day to the joy of so many other fishing days. And whether the fishing took place 50 years ago with my daddy, last month in a gorgeous mountain stream, just last week with my grandson and his daddy, or even in the future fishing with grandchildren yet to be born — the joy is and will still be the same. That joy is what makes the fishing so special.
But maybe there is more to it than that. Maybe fishing touches us all on such a deep level for another, more important reason than pure joyful pleasure.
Think about it.
Our Creator must really love fishing and fisherman. After all, He found His first four earthly disciples fishing off the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus promised those fishermen that if they would leave their nets and follow Him, He would teach them to be “fishers of men.” And He did just that. Amazingly, as believers, we are part of their “fishing.” We are their catch.
So, perhaps it is not the beauty of nature or the joy of reeling in the big one that calls us to fish. Maybe it is much holier than that.
Could it be that our Creator is still extending that same, simple invitation to each of us? Does He still beckon us to lay down our nets, to give up those things that entangle us and entrap us in the busyness of our daily lives? Is He asking us to become “fishers of men?”
I think so.
In fact, I believe I hear Him calling now, “Come on. Let’s go fishing!”
Editor’s Note: Joy Lucius is an occasional free-lance writer for AFA Journal. This blog was inspired by a recent media experience hosted by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.