Unlike most fishing tales, this story is true and causes me a degree of embarrassment in telling it. (But then again, when has embarrassing stories stopped me in the past?) The fact is, I intensely dislike fishing. I truly believe I was my Dad’s big disappointment in life. Oh, he tried his best to instill in me a passion for fishing, but he failed miserably. On a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon he would say with a touch of excitement in his voice, “this is the perfect day son, to get in the boat and catch some big fish.” Folks, having a root canal would be more appealing than dropping a line in the water with a hook and worm at the end and trying to lure in some big fish.
My Dad and Ray Borneman, whose nickname was Ghosty, built a lovely boat for we Draper’s and we named it “Willo the Whisp.” It wasn’t a large craft, maybe big enough for no more than four people to sit comfortably. It also had a 15 HP outboard motor, which in itself tells you that it wasn’t designed for water-skiing … just fishing unfortunately.
It was on one of these Father-son bonding fishing excursions that we had just passed Greavette’s Island, and sure enough we saw our boathouse neighbour Earl travelling the opposite direction.
In my mind, I thought to myself, “Earl knows something very important that my Dad really needs to know.” You see, Earl knew that there were no fish, that’s why he was heading home. Why couldn’t my own Dad, an outdoorsman all his life, not see the obvious?
Earl owned a long narrow boat that had a substantial tilt to it on the side which he was sitting. My Dad and other men around Muskoka Bay soon gave him the nickname “Tippy.”
The likely reason for the nickname was probably not due to the tilt of his boat, but rather on the contents of his Thermos Bottle that always made him feel a little, let’s say, “Tippy.” After my Dad found what he thought was right location to catch the BIG ONES, we’d throw the anchor and started to fish. We would spend the day casting for the miniature Moby Dick, and then, to change the pace, trolled for a while. I never did have a favourite way of fishing, but usually stuck with just watching a red bobber do nothing all day long. On rare occasions when a fish would bite and the red bobber did actually BOB, Dad would say, “this could be the BIG ONE.” The biggest fish I ever caught was never any larger than your nose gets when you’re caught in a lie.
Not catching fish never seemed to bother Dad. Actually, catching the fish came in at a distant second. He was just happy being out on the lake doing what he loved most.
Although I was never enthralled with fishing, Dad kept giving me the invitation to join him. To this day the love of fishing still doesn’t make a lick of sense to me.
In the winter time Dad would faithfully have his Fish Hut out on Muskoka Lake. To me, this fishing experience was worse than the summertime worm drop. In mid-January in Muskoka, it’s as cold as a Mother-In-Law’s kiss. My Dad, thinking he was the consummate Father figure, believed he had the responsibility of teaching his eldest son the joys of fishing. There were many things that didn’t sit well with me as we sat for hours upon end in a tiny fish hut. The small boring shack was about 6 feet wide, 3 and a half feet deep, and if you’re lucky, maybe the height to the roof top was about 4 and a half feet. Square Dancing was definitely out. When you arrive at your Fish Hut the first job to be completed is to skillfully cut the hole in the ice. Inside the Hut offered no comfort at all. It seemed to take forever for the old stove to get heated up. The ice hole in the hut was cut to perfection, all that was left for this wonderful Father-Son bonding time was the thrill of catching the big ones. If you’ve never sat in a Fish Hut against your will for about 7 hours you will never know the thrill of Ice Fishing. Just Dad and me. Our little poles were balanced on a stick with fish line that was draped in the waters of Muskoka Lake. The only thoughts that were ringing through my mind while sitting in the Boredom Shack, was that of my buddies back home who were enjoying a good game of Road Hockey without me.
As the years passed by and I too became a Dad, I don’t think I ever tried to instill in my children the joy of fishing. The few times I did take them fishing there was always a time limit of one-half hour. If there were no fish caught in thirty minutes, we’d high-tail it home. Well, not quite. We would first drop by Fred’s Meat Market to pick up a Pickerel to take home to Momma.
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