My Dad, the RiverBum: A Father’s Day Story

A well educated and experienced professional once told me that it was impossible for a daughter to be friends with her Dad. It was un-heard of, not normal, and inappropriate. I was 16 at the time and having been raised by a single father my whole life, was suddenly confused. But instead of believing this person or arguing my point, I just smiled, like I do with everyone and chose my words wisely. “Of course you haven’t heard of it, because your father is nothing like mine.”
A father like mine. The same man who from day one after being born, 5 lbs.  and upside down, sat by my crib with a bottle of milk every night as a baby. Sang Kingston Trio and Nate King Cole songs while rocking me to sleep. Comforted me when something bad happened and made me hot chocolate. Taught me to play, dance, cook, change a tire, kick a soccer ball, comb my hair, drive a car, and cast one hell of a rod. He was there when I chose my prom dress and I know he will be there when I choose my wedding gown.
My dad told me something the day I graduated from college and I will never forget it. “You were first my daughter and second my friend. The first by choice, the latter by chance.” As a parent, you never know what kid you’re gonna get. Sure, I was throwing parties and getting in trouble with boys, but it wasn’t until that first day on a river that my whole life changed and changed for the better…
Dad and I journeyed to a river in Michigan just a few weeks after my 15th birthday. It was my first time fishing a river, no waders, just shorts and boy did I complain. “Leeches”, “Oh my god, something touched my leg.” “I’m hot”, “I can’t pee like this” “When do we go shopping?” “I don’t want to touch the fish.” “It’s biting me, it’s biting me.”
But, it was Dad who just listened to me. He didn’t yell or fight me on anything. He simply said, “there are no leeches but, stay here, if you can’t go on.” Yes, the guilt trip tactic. A coy father he was. Oh no, I wasn’t going to give in so easily. Oh no, I would show him. I would fish that river until I caught a fish, so help me God. So, I followed him, past every rapid, over every boulder. Now and then, he would hold my hand and help me out. Slowly, but surely, the complaining ceased and I began to get the hang of the flow, the movement, the casting. I had fished before, off boats and docks, but nothing like this. Casting while walking, being pushed by pounds of water, dodging the occasional ninja bugs and focusing on not drowning at the same time. He would coach me, show me what was wrong with my cast, guide me on lures, everything he knew…he taught me.
It was the 11th hour and the sun was setting. I hadn’t caught a fish yet and Dad was thinking of turning back, when suddenly he told me to cast to this one spot by a boulder. I was tired and cranky but listened and cast as far as I could go. It turned out to be a great cast, but as I reeled more and more my hope diminished as no fish bit. But in an instant, my line tugged and I had something. Dad talked me through reeling the fish in and not to reel to fast or hard. Slowly, tire him out, then reel in.
The feeling of catching your first fish standing in chest deep water is one that is hard to explain. Not quite like holding your baby for the first time, but just above winning a free trip to Disneyland. You feel alive and free. Nothing but getting that fish into your hands is on your mind. And my dad, the man who all those years leading up to 16, was dorky or “just dad”, became COOL! I remember looking at him, the look on his face. The way he lit up when I caught that fish, you could tell it made him so happy.
From that moment on, I knew I wanted to go fishing with my Dad all the time. I would blow off parties and finish homework on Friday nights just so I could fish all weekend with him. But, it wasn’t just the fishing, it was the lessons, the facts, the experience, the wisdom that I gained. Not to mention the sense of humor. Sure, hanging out with fellow 16 year olds was fun and I did plenty of that. But, I had something they didn’t…an old friend. Someone who had made all of those mistakes that 16 year olds make and lived to tell about it. While other girls were out there getting their nails did, sitting around watching TV or smoking pot in the back of the high school on a Saturday at noon, I was knee deep in rivers across the country, traveling, meeting new people, living in cool places. And one great benefit, the boys! Yes, the boys. A pretty girl, eh ok. A pretty girl who can fish, PRICELESS! Turns out Dad’s plan of keeping the boys away backfired a bit, cause once they saw me in a river with a rod in my hand, they never went away.
So, is it possible for a daughter to be best friends with her Dad? Sure, if your dad is as great as mine. So, to the man of the hour, day, and years…Thanks for being my guide through every challenge, opportunity and river. I know whether in person or spirit you will be there to guide me forever. Happy Father’s Day Buddy!
And to celebrate, despite the rainy weather, we head to our favorite of waters in Northern Wisconsin. At first we had to wait out the storm…

Waiting for the Storm to Pass…
and waiting…
But, eventually the rain slowed a bit and we found time to wade in…
Nothing like Fishing in the Pouring Rain…I feel an Adele song coming on
AC landed this lunker while dodging lightening
Dad with his rainy bass
AC and her beauty drying out… yep, can’t hide the blonde anymore…
Emergency Bracelet (By day: a trendy accesory. By emergency: pulls out to become handy dandy cord used for all sorts of nifty outdoor saving techniques)
Dad getting in a few last casts before the next rain system
Dad with his new NET! Happy Father’s Day
Yep, after investing thousands into AC’s career and education, she learns of Dad’s ploy to receive the ultimate father’s day gift: A white water Mackenzie mahogany and Fishknat net with a lightweight rubber meshing ideal for any fish. In the words of Dad himself… “Best Gift Ever!!!”

A clear drive home…
After all the rain and increase in water level, we did pretty well for a fathers day trip with about 7 small mouth bass all together. We kept the windows down as we dried off on our drive home after a successful day in the water.
Oh and by the way Dad, you lied, there are leeches in the water…   🙂
Until next time, we will see you on the other side of the river
Cast Away,
AC 

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