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I Really Did Love Him

Story ID:6090
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family History
Location:Sambro Nova Scotia Canada
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I don't write much about my dad. He was a hard man
to live with. I wrote about him in a story called,
"Right From Wrong" which appeared in Chicken Soup
for the Soul last year.

You should read that story at:

Although good times with him were few are far
between, there is one moment of good that stand out in my mind.

This story is much longer than most. It's more than
1600 words. I'm sorry for this, but I don't want
to shorten it.

I Really Did Love Him

The morning stars faded, as the first light of dawn colored the sky. One-by-one
they blinked out like so many street lights in an awakening city. I lifted the hood of my
jacket to protect my ears from the chilled May air. The only sound was the slap of the
paddles in the glassy surface of the lake and the lapping water at the sides of our boat.
My father was silent, concentrating on his chore of getting us across one lake to the next.
Along the shores, first one, then two birds sang. Within a few minutes, the world was
warbling with the sounds of hundreds of awakening birds.

Dad paused to light a cigarette. “You OK, son?”

“I can’t wait to get to Grover’s Lake and fish.”

“We have some work ahead of us yet.” He said. “We still have to haul this boat
up the path from this lake to Grover’s.”

“I know, Dad.”

I settled in the stern of the boat and watched Dad paddle. My stomach churned
with excitement. Dad rarely did things with me, the youngest of three boys. Today was
different. My brothers didn’t have an interest in fishing at that time. I did. Mum and Dad
allowed me to take a day off from school. I never missed school. I was both scared that
my teacher would learn I wasn’t sick and thrilled at the thought of fishing with my Dad.

May was the best month to fish. The warming waters signaled the mayfly grub to
break free from their dark cocoons beneath the surface. They crawled into the light of the
sun, dried their wings, and took to flight. For two weeks they swarmed in the warmth of
the day, mated, dropped their eggs in the water, and finished their lifecycle. The rocks
along the shore were black with flies. The hungry speckled trout gobbled up the unlucky
flies who landed on the water. Those beautiful trout were our prey that day.

Dad and I reached the far shore and carried the heavy punt through the woods to
our destination. “This is where the trout really bite.” Dad said.

I wiped sweat from my eyes. “OK, Dad.” I believed him. It was a rare moment.
The water glowed with the rays of the intensifying light.

We carried the heavy boat up the quarter mile incline to Grover’s Lake and rested
it and our aching backs on the shore. A slight breeze shattered the glassy surface. The red
and orange of dawn bounced off shivering water. I shielded my eyes.

“You ready?” Dad asked.

“You bet!” I said.

We lifted the boat into the water and climbed in. Dad paddled toward a point
across the lake, where the wind blew off shore. The boat came to rest on a partially
submerged flat rock, and we climbed out. “This looks like a good spot, son. I’ll get the
rods. You get flies on the water.”

“OK, Dad.” I climbed the rocky shore to a nearby spruce tree and broke off two
branches. I left one for dad and took mine to the shore and used it as a brush to wipe the
flies from the shady side of a rock. My branch was covered with a few hundred of them,
which I shook into the water. The wind carried the flies away from shore. In a minute a
hungry trout broke the surface and ate one after the other, leaving growing rings around
the spots where he ate.

Dad and I grabbed our rods. At the end of our lines was a tiny (midge) hook to
which we hooked live flies. A bobber was fastened three feet from the hook, and gave
weight to cast our bait out to where we saw the trout break.

Dad’s bobber and fly landed inches from where the trout first made his
appearance. Mine was five feet from his. Both our flies floated the tiny hook at the
surface. The trout reappeared many times, eating the flies I released earlier to get his
attention, but ignoring ours. It was a game of chance.

Dad finally got a bite. His bobber disappeared below the surface. He jerked his
rod to set the hook and began reeling his fish toward shore. I waited with the dip net.
The bobber popped to the surface. Right behind it, the trout leaped into the air and
landed with a splash. Dad’s rod line went slack. The trout had freed himself.

We both groaned. As I stood with the net in my hands, I watched a splash in
the water and my bobber disappeared. I quickly dropped the net, agilely ran over the
rocks, and grabbed my rod. With a quick pull, I set the hook and in a few minutes
had the first trout of the day. It was ten inches and fat, a normal size for that lake.

“Good job, son!”

I beamed. Praise was rare from him.

The morning wore on. At noon I had three trout and dad had two. In the early
afternoon, the wind picked up and changed direction. Waves two and three feet high
rolled across in front of us. We no longer had to put flies on the water. In the warm
winds, they took to flight and flew all around us. Many landed on the water, but in the
roiling waves it was hard to see them or the trout that broke surface to eat. We just
tossed our lines out and hoped for the best.

After an hour of no bites, Dad looked at me. “I’m going to take the boat and go
up around the corner. Do you want to stay here or come with me?”

I was happy where I was. I’d caught some fish and was sure they’d return. “I’ll
stay, Dad.”

He rowed around the bend and out of view. The sun dropped lower in the sky.
The wind and waves continued. I ate a sandwich Mum made for my lunch and watched
my line. I knew in my heart the trout would be back.

There was no use trying to see my fly on the white-capped waters, so I kept an
eye on my bobber. Once in a while, I saw splashes, which I thought were trout breaking
in the turbulence, but it was hard to tell. After an hour of no bites, I began to wonder if I
should have gone with Dad. He was probably catching lots.

For two hours I cast my fly into the churn with no luck. Then my line pulled tight,
and I landed a twelve inch speckled beauty. I cast again, and soon had another. I kept
reeling them in and soon had six trout an average of ten inches in my net.

The feeding frenzy died off. I sat on my rock, ate an apple, and waited. I pulled in
my line. The hook was bare of fly. A trout must have eaten it without taking the hook. I
baited two flies to the tiny hook and cast into the waves. As soon as it landed, I saw a
splash. My rod bent over. It didn’t feel like the others. This one had fight in him. I
watched my fish leap into the air several times and knew I had the biggest speckled
trout of my life on the line. I wanted it. This baby was mine. Like a professional, I
worked him. Time-after-time, he took my line further from shore, but I carefully reeled
him in. After what I thought was a long fight, but was probably five thrilling minutes, I
lowered the net into the water with one hand, pulled the fish over it with the other, and
gasped when I saw how big he was. It was eighteen inches, fat and forty years later, is
still the biggest speckled trout I have ever caught.

After that, I cast my line without wondering if I would catch another. I had the big
one. I was content. An hour later, I watched dad row around the corner toward me. He
battled the waves slamming into the bow of our small boat, and pulled into shore.

“How’d you do, Dad?” I asked, hiding my

“I got one.” He groaned. “After that flurry of excitement this morning, the trout
filled their bellies and aren’t biting now.” He stepped out of the boat. “You ready to head
home?” He paused. “Did you have any luck?”

“I got a couple.” I smiled and lifted my dip net from the water.

“Holy Moly!” He exclaimed. “How many you got there?”

I beamed at him. “I got seven. Look at this fella!” I selected the big guy from the
net. “I got him last.”

“Son, that’s a beautiful trout. I’m so proud of you.”

As we rowed back across the two lakes, and on the drive home, I was happy, not
for the great day I had fishing, but for the fact my dad was proud of me. He was proud of
me! I wasn’t the rough and tough guy he used to be or as tough as my brothers. I was the
short fat kid with the big head. I wasn’t a fighter. I was one who liked books and stayed
away from things too rough. I was a wimp and in many ways still am.

Dad was never there for me. Drinking was his passion. I learned early that I was
going to have to do it alone or with Mum’s help. But that one day, the day that stands out
in my mind, was the one day he was my dad was proud of me. As I write this, I realize, in
spite of his faults, I really did love him.

Michael T. Smith