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Fishing with Mike O’Brien … Reflections From A Pool Of Memories: A Gift From Dad

The pleasures of fishing are best when shared. This was one of those times. When a shared love for angling brought father and son together. Forever bound in one of those “firsts” that can be recalled by either party as vividly as if occurring only minutes before. An experience never to be forgotten by the son, always to be remembered by the dad.

The year was 1992. The setting — Black Lake, New York. My son Rory, age 7, was determined to catch a bass on a rubber worm. He was an advanced fisherman for his age. After all, give a kid a fishing rod, and they instantly become a fisherman. There are no fisher-children. So driven was his purpose, it became an obsession.

During our last several annual trips to Black Lake Rory had witnessed the guys in a nearby cabin return to the dock time after time with stringers of big bass. Revealing the secret of their good fortune amounted to the mere mention of purple rubber worms. The effort not to disclose the magic lure was apparent. We had purple rubber worms, but Rory had yet to catch a bass with one.

In desperation, I practically begged one of the anglers to share their secret. He must have taken pity on Rory, or possibly on me. We were presented a packaged worm along with fishing instructions. The secret was out — Kelly’s Rubber Worm: purple and white, anise-scented, with three hooks spaced front to back. Rory couldn’t wait to give it a try.

No two days of fishing are ever alike — no day is a clone of another. Each trip on the water is unique and creates its own story. This one turned out to be unique.

The day began like all others at Black Lake — up before daybreak, a light breakfast, pack lunch, grab the gear, and head down to the docks. The other cabins were still silent and dark. As we motored across the lake a tangerine-colored ball of sun seemed balanced on the rim of the water’s horizon. A reddish-yellow streak stained the lake’s surface.

We finally reached our destination — a spot I had previously rolled a nice bass, the hook failing to connect. Rory’s impatience showed immediately. He did not allow the worm time to sink, then would reel it back in at blistering speed. I reminded him to let it sink and use a very slow retrieve, as we had been instructed. Rory showed reluctance, not wanting to lose the worm. After all, it was the only one we had. His performance was repeated for almost an hour.

As luck would have it, he got a tangle in the line. After removing the snarl, I quickly made a cast. Under the pretense that the line was again tangled, I bought some time, allowing the worm to sink. The complaints started, “You’re going to lose my worm. You’ll get it snagged. You…” I watched the line where it entered the water begin to move sideways.

Rory finally couldn’t take it any longer and grabbed the rod from my hand. He reeled the line tight and pulled back, bending the rod in a deep bow. Nothing happened. “See I told you it’d get stuck.” He squared his little shoulders and gave a big jerk. The water erupted as a 3-lb. Largemouth bass cleared the surface. It seemed to defy gravity, hanging in the air momentarily. Suspended, the purple worm was plainly visible hanging from its mouth.

Frantically reeling against the fish’s pull, Rory started shouting, “I caught a bass on a rubber worm. I caught one. I caught one.” He was jumping up and down on his toes as if he had just hit a home run in the Little League World Series. I quickly reminded him that the fish was not yet in the boat. “Get the net,” he excitedly commanded.

After a brief battle, I slid the net under the bass and lifted it aboard. Rory couldn’t control his emotions. Dropping his rod to the floor, he lunged at me, wanting desperately to hold his prize. He grabbed the bass by the lower jaw and lifted it to eye level. The bass’s golden body glistened in the morning sun. For a time we were silent, caught in a moment that would bind us together in a deep, warm tide.

There is often more happiness derived from recollection of events like this than from the actual experience itself. Through memory, we rediscover the joy and excitement and relive those magical moments time and time again. They live on in perpetuity. I have had many more, and the end has yet to come.

Mike O'Brien

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