According to Wikipedia, Father's Day dates back to 1910: “Father's Day was founded in Spokane, Washington at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas. Its first celebration was in the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910.”
Reading further, Sonona Smart Dodd wanted a day to honor her dad, similar to Mother’s Day. The day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.
Nothing was mentioned about this being the perfect Dad’s Day for fishing, but truly the timing couldn’t have been much better. Coming out of spring, closing in on summer, the day comes with the prospects of great fishing and fond memories for dads and children alike.
My earliest memory of Father’s Day fishing was with my first son, Matthew, age two. I still remember him running around the park at a small lake, the name long since forgotten. His toddler laughs as dad attempted to introduce him to fishing are still crystal clear in my mind-eye. The day was a mixture of casting power bait and letting it soak, waiting for a trout to come by, and playing on the park’s playground swing and slides. I have a picture somewhere, buried in a box of pictures, a lifetime of memories. It’s funny how the brain works – so many memories, filed away over a lifetime, coming to the surface out of nowhere. That day it wasn’t about catching fish, it was about father-son time. The goal was not necessarily catching fish, rather, it was time spent together enjoying a shared experience. As it should be. At this early age, first experiences can set the tone for a lifetime. Best to make a gentle introduction and go with the flow. The child will dictate how hardcore the day will be. You’ll have a lifetime of adventures ahead – if you play it right in these formative years.
Farther down the road of parenthood, James came along, and then my Klamath jet boat joined the family. The boys had a lot of fun on that boat, slipstreaming turns, pulling a tube, and of course, fishing.
It was another Father’s Day, and we were fishing on Lake St Clair in SW Washington. I had Matt and James in our 16-foot Klamath jet boat, geared up for trolling trout. Lake St Clair is an interesting lake, with many channels and bays to explore. The day was a pleasant early summer father-son get-away, and we enjoyed trolling along on the boat exploring the sights and sounds. Ducks and other animals kept us entertained, and of course, the boys had their Nintendo’s along. I wasn’t one to be hardcore fishing with my boys. I figured it was better to have them along for the experience than it was cramming it down their throats. When a fish came along, they would set their Gameboys down and catch it, enjoying the action, then back to one or another distraction. The fishing was not exactly hot, so after a couple hours it was time to turn back to the boat launch and head home.
Just then, the longline rod violently jerked back and behind the boat a large splash signaled a nice fish on the end of the line. Matt grabbed the rod and began reeling in the huge fish. The smile on his face as he battled the big trout was enough for me to know the magic of angling was taking hold. As the fish came closer I could see it was a big rainbow trout, a triploid most likely. Matt brought the fish close to the net, and I scooped a beautiful rainbow in as Matt let out a whoop of joy. The three of us marveled at the beautiful fish, one of a few we caught that day.
The last Father’s Day fishing adventure I can remember, before my sons became fully enamored with baseball, was a trip my son James and I took on Lake Washington. He was, I believe, 10 years old. It was another beautiful Pacific Northwest early summer day, the kind that begs to get out of the house and do something outdoors. We launched our new Seaswirl and ran across the lake to fish off Kirkland. Downriggers set and gear down, I was hoping to get into some of the quality rainbows and cutthroat that Lake Washington is known for. As we trolled along, the port rod popped free of the downrigger and it was fish on! Handing the rod to James I could see that he had a solid fish on. The fish would take a screaming run, drag crying out, James laughing and enjoying the feel of a substantial fish on the other end of the line. I said a quiet prayer hoping the fish was well hooked. Ever closer James worked the fish to the boat, until I was able to slip the net under a chrome bright Lake Washington cutthroat.
Back at the dock, James couldn’t stop talking about his fish and the fight it gave him. His smile said everything I needed to know.
The years have marched ever onward, and many Father’s Days have passed into my rear view mirrow. My boys are adults now and have lives of their own. Matt is himself a father, making me a grandpa. While baby Hanna is a bit young yet to introduce her to a Father’s Day fishing trip, I look forward to being a part of her fishing life. Say, shouldn’t there be a Grandfather’s Day? If there is, I hope it's not in December!