Out of Bounds

Carp: A Love Story

My father wasn’t the greatest fisherman and didn’t really teach me much about fishing, other than the most important lesson of all: to love it

By Rob Breeding

Part 4: Reconciliation

Memory is a funny thing. Sometimes, while I drink my coffee, I can’t recall if I’ve taken my morning meds. Yet long forgotten memories, most filed away deep in the neural hard drive between my ears, suddenly bubble up when least expected.

I described one of those “lost” memories three weeks ago in my first column about fly fishing for carp. It was of a fishing trip with Dad when I was a surly teenager who didn’t really want to be there. As a youngster I loved fishing with Dad, but on that day I was more inclined to sabotage his plans.

I realize now that trip was the point our fishing trajectories diverged. Dad stuck to his bait fishing, while I became a rather stuffy fly fisher. We fished together only a few more times after that, as I eventually realized time spent with Dad was more important than angling purity tests.

The last time we were on the water was the only time Dad ever fly fished. We spent an afternoon mucking about in a small creek, but the trout languidly finned below our flies, never rising.

My father wasn’t the greatest fisherman and didn’t really teach me much about fishing, other than the most important lesson of all: to love it. I’m not sure I would have plowed through the travails of teaching myself to fly fish, or more recently, fly fish for carp, if he hadn’t taught me to cherish the sport in the first place.

An earlier memory simmered up recently, one that didn’t involve Dad, at least not directly.

It was a summer day and he was at work, so Mom loaded the kids up for a picnic at the lake. As she liked to do, Mom whipped up some fancy lunch that we were too young and dopey to fully appreciate. We ate and played on the playground equipment and barely noticed a man with a boy, about my age, fishing just across the small, urban water.

Then the kid hooked up, and it was soon apparent the boy was fighting something hefty. I remember that sound of water displacement a big fish makes when it thrashes on the surface. Little fish splish-splash as they fight, but each time this fish breached the water sounded like someone emptying a 5-gallon bucket. When the fish ran, the pleasing whine of the boy’s reel flowed unimpeded across the water.

He was fighting a big carp.

The drama collected bystanders as the boy played the fish toward shore. Then, in an instant, something nicked the line and the carp was gone. 

What happened next was disturbing enough in real time. Today, when the sometimes-forgetful father I’ve become thinks back on it, I am horrified. 

The man, I don’t know if he was his father, started screaming at the boy, calling him an idiot and moron — and other things I can’t write here —because he lost the fish. His fierce rage reverberated off the water’s surface, scattering the bystanders and continuing so long Mom ended our picnic, fearing we’d witness something worse.

She was distraught as we drove away. Mom wanted to confront the man and protect the boy, but feared he might turn that wrath on us.

I’ve seen similar incidents from crazed helicopter parents at youth sporting events, but in the decades since that picnic, I’ve never witnessed anything like the venom unleashed on that poor boy.

Having watched my dad fly fish I can assure you he was no Lefty Kreh. What’s more important, however, is that if you’d seen him fish with his kids, it’s a certainty you’d more likely mistake him, wind knots and all, for Kreh rather than the monster who cut short that summer picnic.

If Dad was still with us that’s one thing I wouldn’t forget to tell him.

Rob Breeding’s website is www.mthookandbullet.com.

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