Love my woman, love my baby, love my biscuits sopped in gravy.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Fishing Rod

Several years ago now I was part of a Bible study at the home of a older couple named Rod and Connie whose children had all married and moved on with their lives. At the request of their son-in-law, my pastor and friend Dan, they started this home group for young adults from his church. We spent many hours at their house every Wednesday night where we learned a lot about the Bible and even more about life from both of them. We made and solidified friendships, and I got to know Jana, who became my wife. Some of the best parts of our courtship were spent with Rod and Connie around their kitchen table long after everyone else went home.

At their place, everyone was welcome, funny, musical, and clever.

Rod had been a teacher during his career, and he continued to pass on wisdom and common sense long after he left the classroom. He didn't retire and turn him into a bookworm with soft hands, though. He had dogs, an apple orchard and a tractor, and was continually improving his little farm in the hills of Corralitos by rescuing and caring for plants that most people would have given up on. He had an antique rose bush from the 1920s he kept pruned that would produce beautiful flowers every summer, and his apple trees were ones that had been dug up and left to die from an orchard he passed one day.

One night after sitting around the kitchen table over coffee we started talking about fishing. There are plenty of references to fishing in the bible but this was not metaphorical, this was practical. Besides being a homemade farmer, Rod was also a fisherman.

The Monterey Bay area has lakes and rivers to fish but the most obvious place to go is in the ocean. With so many beaches around, fishing for surf perch and striper is one of the best ways to spend spare time. It's beautiful and open, with the edge of the largest ocean in the world trying to reach and pull you in with every wave. It's teeming with fish and if you know what you're doing you can catch plenty of them. Rod explained to me that fishing from the beach was a lot like fishing from the river. He said you watch for places where the waves and current meet and churn up the sandy bottom, and get your line right in there to have the best shot at catching perch. The more we talked about it and the more interest I showed in the subject, the more excited Rod got. It was late but Rod perked up like he had two cups of caffeinated coffee, which was strictly off-limits, and after hearing how much about my poor fishing skills decided to help me by showing me what kind of tackle I needed.

He took me out to a shed behind his house where he had a collection of all kinds of fishing equipment stacked on shelves. He rummaged around a bit and found an old prescription bottle he used to hold rubber grubs and hooks, dumped it out and began to fill it with what I needed to really catch fish; A couple of sinkers and some of the right sized and colored rubber grubs, a swivel, and some hooks. This has basically turned into a template for what to use when I want to catch fish.

My tackle box isn't much bigger than a lunch pail so space is at a premium. I keep some stuff for lake fishing in there, some fishing line and enough room for my reel. I also keep that prescription bottle in there. The label was peeled away long ago, and judging from the size, it must have been held some big pills. I don't usually open the bottle, but kind of keep it as a reference point, and now as a memento, since Rod passed away a couple of years ago.

The other day I was able to take my family out to the beach and as a last minute addition to the towels, buckets and shovels, I threw my fishing pole and tackle box in the back of the truck. It's a short drive to Sunset State Beach, and it's a shame we don't go more often. It's a huge beach and lives up to it's namesake with incredible views when the sun goes down. As Abby and Jana played in the sand I took my pole out of it's case, attached the reel from my tackle box and dug around for some plastic grubs. At some point I had ordered about a hundred of the grubs that Rod had recommended for catching fish but at some point they had wriggled out and probably found a plastic log to hide under, so I reluctantly reached for the old prescription bottle Rod gave me and used some of his tackle. I tied off my hook and spent the next hour or so casting and reeling in, wading out to my knees in the cold waters of the Pacific.

As the sun started to set my wife and little girl were ready to go home and rinse the sand off their legs and feet, so I threw the line in for one last cast. Miraculously, I was still using the same setup I had started with, and just as I was reeling in my final cast, I felt a couple of tugs on the end of the line. At first I figured it was more seaweed as usual. I'd like to say I caught a whopper and that the struggle kept us there until past dark, but in reality it took about thirty seconds to pull in a surf perch that fit easily into the palm of my hand. No whopper, but it was a fish, and it might as well have been one as glad as I was to catch anything at all. I showed it to Abby, who was at first excited but had no interest in holding it, and would only touch it with the tip of her little index finger. I tossed it back and watched it lazily swim on its side back to its home through the clear water and foam, then turned around toward my own home in the same lazy manner, thankful for sun, sand, family, and an old friend who taught me some things about fishing, the Lord, and people around a kitchen table.


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