By Eilene Lyon
The “From the Vault” series features an artifact or family photo from my collection to illustrate a tale from my distant past.
The photo I posted recently of Ward Cutting with his trout catch made me think of other fishing tales. My father isn’t much the outdoorsy kind of guy. My mother’s family was more into camping and that sort of thing. Even so, I don’t recall her father being much of a fisherman.
That’s why it was a little surprising that one Christmas, when we were visiting the Smiths in Little Rock, they gave me and my brothers Zebco rods/reels. Grandpa proceeded to take us to the pond in front of the Arkansas Capitol building to catch bluegill. (I know, I know, this pond does not exist. It’s just what I remember, okay?)
There was a man fishing there who really knew how to reel them in. Every cast he made, he brought in a fish. My brothers and I were more likely endangering any nearby human with our wild casts. We did manage to catch a few and Grandpa did the cleaning for our fish fry dinner.
It was the late 1960s when my dad and his brothers, along with at least one of the wives, went deep-sea fishing off the Oregon coast. My Aunt Alice caught a flounder. The men brought in salmon and tuna galore.
Alice was a canning maven. She not only had an extensive vegetable garden and canned her own produce, but she canned all the salmon and tuna that wouldn’t be consumed right away. Believe me, it was better than anything you could buy in the grocery store. (I’m not a big salmon fan, but I love tuna.)
Most of my fishing experiences as an adult involved pulling trout from Colorado streams. Fresh-caught fish helped supplement my diet when money was in short supply. I recall angling on the Animas River here in Durango with one boyfriend and his buddies. I landed the largest fish that day, which they somehow found surprising.
One guy I dated fly-fished. He tied his own flies. He taught me how to cast, but my one and only effort at an actual stream netted me nothing, except perhaps cold, wet feet. Bah. I think fly fishing is for people who care more about the challenge than the outcome. Or just love being outdoors, bushwhacking along creeks, for “something to do.”
In college, I dated a guy I will call Don, because that was his name. Over summer break, I flew from Ohio to Virginia to stay with his family for a week (delightful people). We had some fun visiting the museums in D.C. and other historic sites.
One day, we went hiking and fishing at a small lake. We were using worms for bait. Big, fat nightcrawlers. After I pulled one from the cup of dirt, Don reached into his pocket for a knife to cut the worm in half. Then he saw that I’d already done the deed with my bare hands. I don’t think he ever got over the sight of me with my slimy, severed critter.
Don continued to mail me the gushiest love letters I’ve ever received, sometimes three a week, but when he returned to campus that fall, he gave me the cold shoulder. Never said a word or explained.
There are always more fish in the sea. It seems most of the men I dated were the catch-and-release sort. I lost track of the number of times I got tossed back. Eventually the tables turned and I did some of my own releasing.
I’m no longer angling, for fish or men. I’m with a trophy-worthy keeper now.
Feature image: My brothers fishing an Oregon stream in 1970. (Dad)