This website, from every word to every cast, is lovingly dedicated to the people who taught my brother and me to fish, my grandparents. As children, there were many weekends spent with my grandparents fishing some lake or river. Grandpa and Grandma would take us to the banks of the Sugar River that ran through our small home town of Brodhead, Wisconsin. I was too young to remember, but the story goes that one of us boys would catch a little bullhead catfish and reel it in. As soon as the fish was brought to shore Grandma would distract us boys while Gramps would remove the fish, put it on the hook at the end of the other boy’s line and cast it back out without us noticing. The other brother would think he had caught a different fish, get excited and reel it in. The whole process was then repeated over and over and over and over again. We probably caught the same bullhead catfish a dozen times.
When I was 10 years old, in July of 1980, my grandparents took us boys to Canada for a week. We stayed at a place called Canada North Lodge, which still exists today, on the Woman River chain of lakes. For a young boy, it was quite the adventure. That entire trip to Ontario sealed my fate. I believe it was on that adventure that I fell in love with the pine forests, animals, fish, lakes and rivers that make up the north country.
It wasn’t until grandpa was in his early 70’s that he gave fly fishing a try. I remember the day easily. We were fishing my aunt and uncle’s pond for bluegill and bass when grandpa watched me bring in a fat bluegill on the St. Croix 5wt I used at the time. He walked over and asked if he could give it a try. I gave him a few lessons and soon he was casting a foam spider imitation into the water. On his very first cast there was an obvious “GULP” as a bluegill sucked the fly from the surface. Gramps reeled it in and was excited about his first fish on a fly rod, but not near as excited as I was. See, after having learned more things than I’ll ever be able to put into words from the old man, I had actually taught him something. For the first time in my life, roles were reversed. I was the teacher and he was the student. In the weeks that followed grandpa found himself an old fiberglass fly rod with matching reel at an auction or garage sale. He also borrowed my fly tying kit and played around tying flies. I still have one of his flies, although I refuse to use it for fear I’ll lose it.
Yes, growing up with the grandparents I had was truly a blessing. Gramps is gone now, having made the journey to the big lake in the sky on November 3rd of 2018 at the age of 88 years old. He passed peacefully at home with grandma by his side. Grandma is thankfully still here and on my weekly visits to see her we talk about fishing and grandpa quite a bit. As a matter of fact, she’s been a big help in my brother and I’s planning of an upcoming fishing trip we have coming up. You see, my brother and I are going up to Canada North Lodge this coming July. Deposits are sent in, dates are reserved and we’ll be taking grandpa’s 18’ 1972 Starcraft Super Sport boat with us. It won’t be the same without Grandpa and Grandma with us on the trip, but Grandma will be anxious to hear about it and see pictures upon our return and Gramps…well…he’ll no doubt be right beside us in the boat although we may not see him. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if the scent of Old Spice and the sound of his laugh comes riding across the lake on a west wind. Geez, I certainly hope so.
Thanks Grandpa and Grandma. I’m eternally grateful.