My mother became dreamy-eyed on the opening day of fishing season. She loved pulling on hip waders, tugging on her fishing vest, grabbing rod and reel and spending the day on Idaho’s Snake River. She knew the best spots and what time of day the fish were biting. She wasn’t squeamish about baiting a hook with a night crawler or a hellgrammite.
I didn’t understand her passion for the sport. I thought fishing was boring, so I usually played in the water or read a book — that is, until the day she decided I needed to learn to fish.
She drove us to the middle of nowhere. We had to walk through open grazing pastures, where huge Hereford bulls roamed, but my mother was a woman on a mission — to teach me the pastime she loved. We found a good spot where the water rippled over rocks. I watched as she stuck and looped the worm on my hook, explaining if you don’t want to go hungry, you have to get your hands dirty. I was just glad that she did it for me.
My mother then tossed the line into the river and handed me the pole. She showed me how to hold it and tease in the line. She told me where to stand so the fish couldn’t see my shadow in the water. I stood there swatting horseflies, stepping on biting ants and keeping my eye on those huge bulls that occasionally bellowed. I thought the day would never end.
Then, I felt a fish hit my line.
The thrill of the moment consumed me. My heart raced. I watched my graphite pole bend as the trout on the other end tried to swim away. All at once, I was caught up in reeling that fish to shore. Mom was jumping up and down, just as excited as I was. As soon as I had the fish close enough, I couldn’t wait for the net and flipped it onto the bank. I’d caught my first fish!
That fishing adventure was long ago, but there have been times in my life when I have looked back on that day and realized that while fishing with my mother, I learned truths that have helped me during different times in my life.
For fashion or fishing, shoes matter
Mom’s hip waders kept her feet dry. Her fishing vest was filled with clippers, extra line, sinkers, hooks, tissue and even some hard candy. She had dressed the part of a fisherman and was prepared and comfortable. I have compared that fishing trip to the time when I wore three-inch heels and a jacket with no pockets to teach a class. If I had followed Mom’s example and applied her savvy of wearing the right fashion for what I was doing, my feet would not have been sore, and I would have had a pocket for my tissue (and chocolate). Though she never said it, her example from years ago speaks volumes to me today.
The early bird gets the worm
One year during the Sundance Film Festival, my daughters and I got up at 4 a.m. on a snowy January day so we could be the first in the “stand-by” line to see a film. We were glad we did because later we were the only ones from that line to see the movie. Mom set the example those many years ago when she rousted me out of bed before the sun came up, telling me that we had to get to the river while the fish were biting. Mom and I caught our fish. My daughters and I saw the film. Whether fishing or watching movies, the same logic holds true. You must get there early.
The right bait makes the difference
The night before Mom and I went fishing, we dug up earthworms. She knew that to get the fish to bite, she had to have the right bait. Last summer, her example helped me solve a dilemma I had with serving broccoli to my family. Broccoli, in my house, is almost a dirty word. As I tried to think how I could convince them to eat it, I remembered digging up those worms and realized I needed better bait. I promised my family strawberry-rhubarb pie with homemade ice cream if they ate a serving of the dreaded green veggie. It worked! The right bait does make a huge difference. (But leave the worms out of the pie.)
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty
When I was a new mother, I hated changing messy diapers. My husband was always conveniently busy. But I wanted a healthy, diaper rash-free baby, so I had to buck up and do it. I realized while taking care of my child that on that fishing trip my mom had taught me how to push through and do things that weren’t pleasant. Her words came back to me — if you don’t want to go hungry, you have to get your hands dirty. I didn’t want to get my hands dirty by putting a worm on the hook, just as I didn’t want to change a dirty diaper. But I’ve come to realize that sometimes you have to do things you don’t like before you receive the results you want.
When facing horseflies and biting ants, endurance pays offComment on this story
After my children were grown, I returned to college. It was hard lugging a backpack filled with books and a laptop from one end of the campus to the other. That wasn’t my only problem. I had to compete with fresh young minds to earn good grades. However, I proved I could do it when I graduated. As I have thought about that trip with my mother and how I endured horseflies and biting ants to catch a fish, I have realized that by toughing it out at college, I reeled in the big fish of earning my degree.
My mother passed away several years ago. I miss her every day. Do I still go fishing? No, because what appealed to me about fishing was going with my mother. Will I ever go again? Maybe. Both of my daughters need to learn how to fish, and perhaps they’ll learn their own five truths that will help them later in life.
Kathi Oram Peterson has authored four novels, including her new release, "River Whispers." Visit her at
www.kathiswritingnook.com or www.kathiorampeterson.com