I got a Facebook message yesterday from Fred Hand, the father of a girl I used to date in high school. “I still think of you often and still consider you a good friend,” he wrote, and I would have to agree with him. However, as common law said it must, our friendship ended when his daughter and I did.
It’s the typical story. Boy and girl start as friends because they like each other’s company. Boy and girl date. Boy and girl slowly grow apart, and barely speak to each other after they split.
Yet what happens to those other relationships forged during that time? Fred and I, early in his daughter and I’s relationship, started fishing. We’d pond-hop all over Shelby County, TN, spending jon-boat afternoons at Fawn Lake, Spring Lake, Boyscout Lake, and a host of other hotspots.
I was a crank-baiter at the time, almost exclusively. A couple pops on top, and then burn it back to the boat. Fred, on the other hand, was a worm fisherman. He’d Texas-rig his selections and slowly work his way around the lake, occasionally alternating his cigarette from one hand to the next, depending on if he were casting or reeling.
On one of these days, at Spring Lake, I blitzed fish early on. They were right against the bank, and if I wasn’t catching them on top they were hitting on the first crank. Fred, meanwhile, was picking up a fish or two but couldn’t keep up. I offered to donate him a similar crankbait, but he declined repeatedly.
By 10:00, we had caught around 25 and Fred had boated less than a half-dozen fish. But then things changed. There was a long line of docks down the lake’s west side, and Fred began casting beneath each of these structures. Every cast he made, he seemed to either catch a fish or lose a fish. I tried these same casts but was unsuccessful, for Fred had a secret weapon.
He was fishing with a closed-faced Zebco reel. The type of reel that “serious bass fishermen” would have made fun of was catching fish repeatedly. His worm, which was also weightless, would not just skip a time or two underneath the dock, it was skip up to 10 times beneath it, banging into the back wall with each effort.
I couldn’t keep up. The more I tried with my baitcaster, the more I backlashed. And Fred only laughed, yelling “Skip-bo” each time he caught another fish.
Skip-bo was a card game his daughter and I played during those days. To this day, I have no idea how to play it. I don’t even faintly remember. But I do remember Fred’s technique during the heat of the summer when I’m struggling to find fish, and I smile every time I see someone loading a Zebco into the boat.
Like most clichés say, people run in and out of your life so fast that it’s hard to keep up. Friends today move on tomorrow, and girls we once loved are never heard from again.
Yet fishing partners should be different, right? For finding a good partner is so few and far between, these people should be the ones you keep up with forever. They are a cherished few. So I’m glad that Fred wrote me yesterday, I’m glad he once again reminded me of days on the water gone past. And while his daughter and I ran the course we were supposed to, he and I did not.
Hopefully one day we’ll again fish together. But, knowing life, we probably won’t. Which means we’ll have to at least stir up a story or two from the past and add another one or two from the present.
For while second loves always follow first ones, no one ever follows a good fishing partner. They stay in the boat with you forever.