64: The Fishing Lesson

64: The Fishing Lesson

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grand and Great

The Fishing Lesson

Fishing with my dad was a big event for me, but this trip was going to be extra special, because my grandfather was joining us. Dad and I were in our old Ford truck heading over to pick up Grandpa on our way to the lake. I was so excited to be included in this trip.

“Dad, does Grandpa know how to fish?” I asked.

Dad looked at me and smiled. “Your grandpa taught me how to fish,” he said. “And you should know this — Grandpa doesn’t like horsing around in the boat.”

“Okay,” I said. Wow, I thought, Dad catches most of the fish when we go fishing together, and Grandpa taught him how to fish. Grandpa must be the best fishermen ever!

It was a little crowded in the pickup, but I felt pretty important sitting there between the two of them. They talked most of the way, and I didn’t mind much because it was fun listening to them talk about work, and even about Mom and Grandma.

As we pulled up along the lake, Grandpa nudged me and asked, “Who’s going to catch the biggest fish today?”

“Me!” I answered.

“Well, we will just have to see about that,” Grandpa replied.

While Dad and Grandpa had talked most of the way in the truck, they were very quiet in the boat. Grandpa hooked the first fish, then Dad bested him by two. Me? Not even a nibble.

“Grandpa,” I began chattering. “Do you think something is wrong with my bait? I’m not even getting any bites. Maybe I need to do something different. Grandpa, I think I need a new worm. Grandpa, can...?”

Grandpa interrupted me. “Raymond, the reason you’re not catching fish is because you aren’t holding your mouth right.” His comment was perplexing to me.

Grandpa ended the day with five fish on the stringer and Dad had four. Dad told Grandpa that it was a tie because one of his had dropped off the hook and bounced inside the boat, but ended up back in the water, so it still counted. Grandpa argued that it’s what you end up with that counts, and you can’t count fish you can’t eat.

Well, needless to say, I had an empty stringer again, and according to our fishing rules the one who catches the least cleans all the fish. It was a chore I didn’t mind, but I would have enjoyed it more if just one of the fish had been mine.

Later that evening after supper, while Dad was cleaning out the boat, I went over to him. “Dad, what does holding your mouth right have to do with catching fish?”

Dad stopped hosing out the boat and looked at me, seeming rather surprised I had asked the question.

“Raymond, I will let you in on a little secret that I had to learn the hard way from Grandpa. But don’t tell him I told you, okay?” he said.

We sat down and he explained that when he was about my age and wasn’t catching fish, Grandpa told him he wasn’t holding his mouth right. So one day while fishing, Dad began making all kinds of faces. After a few minutes of silence, Grandpa turned to see why my dad had become so quiet and saw him making all those silly faces.

“Charles,” he asked my dad, “what in the name of God is wrong with your face?”

Dad explained that he was trying to find which way to hold his mouth so he could catch fish. Grandpa started laughing so hard he nearly tipped the boat over.

My dad finally explained it to me: “Raymond, what your grandpa meant was that I was talking too much. When you’re fishing, the way to hold your mouth is closed.”

“Why?” I asked.

He explained that when I talk too much, the noise moves my fishing pole, making the line vibrate and scaring the fish. At least that was Grandpa’s theory.

“But don’t tell Grandpa I told you so,” Dad warned me again.

“How long was it before Grandpa told you?” I asked.

Dad chuckled again. “Well,” he said, “I can tell you I got pretty good at cleaning fish, just like you.”

All that winter I thought about what Dad had told me, and it felt pretty cool that I knew the secret. When spring came, all three of us once again went fishing. Dad and Grandpa were quietly talking in the back of the boat and I was in the front when I felt a fish strike, so I gave my line a little tug. They never even noticed. I knew I had one hooked, but I didn’t call out to them just yet.

It was then I started making all the weird faces I could muster. Finally, they both stopped talking and looked at me.

“Look at your son’s face,” Grandpa said. “What in the world is he doing?” They both started laughing.

At that moment, I jerked back on my pole and yelled out, “I GOT ONE!” They both stopped laughing.

I was even in for a little surprise. That fish jumped clean up out of the water and skipped across the top of the lake, then my reel screamed as it took out more line. I fought that fish back and forth for what seemed forever. When I finally got the fish in the boat, Grandpa and Dad were both speechless.

“Yep, guess you just got to hold your mouth right!” I said.

Grandpa cleaned fish that night, including my five-and-a-half-pound rainbow trout. Dad said later that it was bigger than anything either he or Grandpa had ever caught.

~Raymond Morehead
Chicken Soup for the Fisherman’s Soul

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