Valuable Life Lessons Learned Fishing with Dad

By Phil Lehman

Lessons from Dad

Like some innate longing, since the beginning of time as we know it, fathers have taken their offspring fishing. The passing of the proverbial torch, father teaches son or daughter how to provide food for the family. Sure, we live in an age where food is literally brought to your front door, but the sentiment still holds true. There’s something to be said for mastering the wild, creating an order in the chaotic world in which we live. Nothing is quite as iconic or nostalgic as fishing with dad.

When out fishing with my dad, I remember him spending all his time baiting hooks, tying knots, casting lines, reeling in hooks caught by underwater plants, unhooking snags, and teaching in every one of those moments. Thinking back, I’m not sure I can remember my dad ever catching a fish himself. With eight kids in my family, fishing for my dad was the equivalent of running a marathon. Not the quiet, serenity that usually springs to mind when thinking about fishing. But even in the all-out scramble of fishing with a pack of cubs, life lessons imbue the sanguine memories.

Fishing with Dad

Fishing with dad was all about you catching the fish. Not to say he didn’t hook his fair share, or that competition wasn’t the sole driving force behind every cast. Just that he took more delight in your catch than his own. We feel that with our own children now, swelling pride in their accomplishments, and joy in their hard earned pay off. There’s nothing quite like the beaming face of your child, pure joy coursing through the adrenaline of hooking their first fish. No matter how many times they pull one in, the feeling remains the same. Our fathers celebrated when we had success and pushed us passed the gloom when efforts failed to yield rewards.

The takeaway here? Celebrate the good things in life and weather the bad with a smile. Life is not always going to give us what we work hard for, even if we do everything right. So, when it does, we better celebrate it. Enjoy the good in life.

All day fishing sometimes ended with an empty line. For me, it always ended with an empty line. I didn’t celebrate my first catch until I was a few years into my second decade of life. And when I finally did, it was about a 3 lbs. largemouth bass, but boy did he give me a good fight. I remember the adrenaline rush like it was this morning.

Life has a way of cycling years of drought and famine with times of plenty. We can’t let the bad years keep us down, or we’ll miss the golden moment. Eyes cast down won’t catch the rising sun.

Time with Dad

Between tagging fish, patience endures. Days out on the river or lake have a pace glaringly dissimilar from ordinary, everyday life. The slow clip of spinning or fly casting is a welcomed change from the hurried weaving of city traffic. Floating, rather than speeding. Time is the special ingredient in love, and fishing with dad more than sprinkled it on. Apart from the lessons he’d teach verbally about tying knots, baiting a hook, or using the right lure, he taught by example many enduring virtues. None more prevalent than patience. Keep on casting because the big one is still out there.

Time works very different on the river than it does in the living room. In a world geared towards immediate gratification a minute can seem like a lifetime. On the river, a lifetime flashes by in a moment. Hours spent fishing in the company of your father or child has a far more lasting affect on relationships than hours spent in a movie theater. Dad taught us to be doing things, not standing by and watching others do them. The world was ours to conquer, ours to change, to cultivate. An old Idaho saying comes to mind comparing people to three varying types of potatoes, “spec-tators, commen-tators, and participa-tators”. The world could use many more fathers fishing with children, passing on their knowledge and example to the next generation. With one in three children growing up without a father in the home children need more examples of doing, and less modeling of idle behaviors. It’s given to us to pass on the knowledge, to impart the value found in a good day angling.  

This Father’s Day give the gift of time to your dad. Take him fishing if he’s still around. And if he’s not, then take his grandson or granddaughter. Get out on the river. Cast away the daily grind and take time for the greater things in life. Time spent fishing is time well spent.

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