“First fish I ever caught I took home and hid under my bed, mom eventually smelled it out.”
— Jeremy Johnson
Dateline: March 2021
“There are places I remember…”
When I think back to my childhood I see it in short bursts of a black and white movie, the soundtrack being a melody of laughs and tears, times filled with moments of wonder, excitement and discovery that to this day, I carry within me.
In my soul.
In my dreams.
And in the stories to which I leave behind.
“Childhood is a short season.”
— Helen Hayes
I do not though remember the first television show I ever watched.
Nor my first at bat, first comic book or day at school.
I do though remember my first fish (and worm), remember that whole experience as if it was yesterday.
I remember my first fishing worm. I cried when my grandfather stuck the hook through it, “You kilt it, you kilt it,” and then I ran and hid behind a tree so as to not witness worm pain.
I remember the first fish I caught. I cried when I saw the hook in his mouth and saw it was all jumping around before my grandfather grabbed it, “You kilt it, you kilt it,” and then I dropped the fishing rod and reel and went and hid behind a light post so as to not witness Niagara River fish pain.
“I don’t think the boy is ready for this yet,” is what my grandfather told my parents when we got back home, and as they all stood looking out our picture window as I was burying the worms we brought home in the dirt in the front garden in case “we kilt them too.”
I was 4 or 5 and apparently, sensitive.
With that begins time travel this March as I asked some folks this one question: “Do you remember the first fish you caught as a child?”
And that question began, for many, the childhood movies they had stored within.
“…all my life, though some have changed…”
“There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.”
— Graham Greene
“When I was 6 years old my dad and maternal grandfather took me fishing on Lake Lanier in the Flowery Branch area.”
— Wayne Wooten
“My grandfather trolled his patented lure the ‘GOBY’ and had one rigged for me. We hadn’t been fishing long when my rod bent sharply while in the rod holder. I had about 100 feet of line out and the fish pulled me to the back of the boat. My dad told me I had my feet on the transom hollering, “Help me!
“You would have thought I was battling marlin. I finally got her in with my granddad backing the boat up to help me out. It weighed 5 pounds; none of my friends believed me. That is what got me hooked on fishing and that was in 1958!”
“…some forever, not for better…”
His name was Clay, my grandfather, born on a farm in Canada, married the beautiful young girl from the farm next door, Tess, my grandmother … took a train from Toronto to Buffalo … and stayed.
Became Americans first, grandparents second.
Clay passed before he saw me ever catch a fish that I didn’t run and hide from.
He did leave me his fishing tacklebox because as Tess once told me, “He knew someday you would grow into it.”
My first fish led to all this, guess gramps knew.
Thanks, Pops … miss ya.
“…some have gone and some remain…”
“As a boy I would ride my bicycle to Mill’s Creek …
— Bill Hunter
“… fish off the bank for anything that would bite.”
That’s Bill Hunter today … he’s still fishing.
“My first fish was a little bream, my first reel was a Johnson Century, first boat was a metal V bottom one that I got for $200 because it leaked.”
“…all these places had their moments…”
“My first fish was a bluegill at Hanson Dam in Southern California…”
— Larry Sullivan
“… the first fish is memorable in that my bobber broke and my brothers were catching fish with bobbers so I found a cigarette butt and tied it to my line and caught my first fish with a cigarette butt bobber.”
“I had an idyllic childhood with the freedom to go and play.”
— Dick Strawbridge
“I remember the first freshwater and saltwater fish I ever caught…”
— Mark Burgess
“The first freshwater fish was a sunfish. My brothers and I accompanied my father on a delivery to a customer’s house that happen to have a small pond in the backyard. We were all very young and like typical boys gravitated to the water. Once down by the pond we found grasshoppers and crickets and threw them in the water and watched a sunfish come up to feed on them. That gave us the idea to grab the fishing rods that were always in the vehicle and put a grasshopper or cricket on the hook under a bobber and we proceeded to catch some fish like crazy.”
“For saltwater, my first fish was a bluefish. I was 4 years old out in Buzzards Bay, and my mother made my father tie a rope around me and to the boat so that if I fell overboard they could pull me back in. But my father ended up tying the rope to the rod, and the rod to me.”
“…with lovers and friends I still can recall…”
“One of the most powerful handclasps is that of a new grandbaby around the finger of a grandfather.”
— Joy Hargrove
“This is me and my grandpa, PawPaw, Jim Guffy way back in 1985 …”
— Brian Taylor
“… my first fish was at a little farm pond, it was a bream on a Zebco 33, I was around 3 years old. I can remember the corner we were standing in, the first of so many. That boat photo we were up on the Catawba River, me and PawPaw we went fishing that day, they were biting so good that he was hanging them on every cast and he just started handing me the rod and letting me reel them in. We caught so many that I looked at him and said, “I’m tired PawPaw,” so we quit because we had a mess of fish. That was one trip of many that I will never forget, some of the best times of my life were with him. I love PawPaw and he will always be my hero, he taught me how to hunt and fish, and most of all, how to be a man.”
“Way back when, my first fish was a bream…”
— Clarence Coleman
“… I caught it in my neighbor’s farm pond using a cane pole and earthworms for bait. To see that cork dance and then go completely under was a thrill that I still remember to this day, and I still get the same thrill today as I did as a child when I catch a fish.”
“…in my life…”
“I can’t remember my first fish much, I just remember more the times my dad, Lanny, took the time to take me fishing which to me is as important as my first fish …”
— Brent Callicott
“… I’m so thankful that my dad took enough time to show me how to fish and have the patience with me learning. Long trips after he came home being an over-the-road truck driver, but still taking me on that one fishing trip which led to another and another. I was ‘hooked’ if you will. There was no doubt I wanted to be able to do the same …
“… for my daughter, Gracyn, as my father did for me. The first time I took Gracyn fishing was to a local pond. After two or three trips to that pond, our daughter was hooked. It was great father-daughter time with Mother Nature, no phones …”
And so when I asked this question, “What was your first fish?” so many answered and knew not only what the fish was, but also who it was that led them to that first fish.
Who it was that took them fishing in the first place …
… to me, this is the best photo that came my way … three generations: Brent 56, Gracyn 16, Lanny 76
All brought together by … ”My first fish.”
“…I’ve loved them all.”
In My Life
“So, like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within us.”
— Gaston Bachelard