Much of our history, heritage, and fondest memories as Canadians involve fishing. Most of today’s anglers carry a passion down from generations preserving the traditions of our past.  Jim Nightingale an avid outdoorsman and former charter boat captain recounts a typical Canadian family's life that revolves around our favourite past time.

Fishing with my Father by Jim Nightingale

Over Christmas, our family gathered at my oldest son’s home for our traditional meal and libations.  This year’s unseasonably warm weather meant that the usual outdoors activities with the kids would have to be spent inside with the focus resting on a myriad of computer and electronic games and devices. My brother and I marvelled at “Santa’s” generosity to all of the grandchildren, chuckling at the marked contrast with what we ourselves had received at Christmas at the same age. “You know what …” my brother began and, laughing, I finished his thought “we were every bit as lucky and maybe even more so”. We were both on the same track, reflecting back that our parents had provided us with the greatest gift any child could wish for – their time.

        It’s not surprising that our memories of shared time with two marvellous parents tended to centre on the times we experienced at our very humble family cottage in the Kawarthas. Neither of us looked forward to Sunday mornings at the cottage. Our devout mother would lay out our best slacks and white shirts and drag us off to church service in our old Ford. Dad, being significantly less reverent, would always make a bit of a show of rounding up his ‘lunge rig and tackle and ask us to “Say one for me!” as he headed towards his antique trolling boat safely cradled in the boat lift. We never could figure out why he refused to call the only fish he ever targeted musky like most other anglers.

We’d reflect on how many hours we’d spent as toddlers collecting crayfish from the rocky shallows to be used as bass bait. Dad had showed us how to successfully go about this despite the fact he never fished for bass himself. He would always leave whatever he was doing to take us out to a number of favourite spots and his only demand was that we would keep on our long pants , shirts and hats no matter how hot the day was. Neither of us could remember accurately how old we were when Dad decided we could take the dory out on our own but we both recalled it as having been a milestone. The five and a half horsepower Johnson had countless hours of usage each season by two little tykes wearing bucket hats and long-sleeved shirts.


Somewhere along the way we were given spinning reels and rods. This opened up a whole new world as we graduated to top-water baits and plugs but never forgot the fun of watching a smallmouth pick up a tail-hooked crayfish and setting the hook quickly enough that the fish wouldn’t be too deeply hooked. Pickerel (walleye, if you insist) were plentiful and we became fairly skilled at catching these delicious fish under the tutelage of both parents. When guests were coming for a visit, Mom would send which ever one of us was available out to the shoal to bring in supper. Kawartha pickerel were never the size of Quinte or Georgian Bay cousins. However, using a worm harness, a June-Bug and worm or a Rapala (black and gold), a nice stringer of fish could be had even during the mid-afternoon period without spending a great deal of time.


Youth and patience don’t often go hand in hand. My brother and I spent countless hours trolling with Dad for ‘lunge. He taught us all he knew and we caught more than our share of these toothy critters while lining up his landmarks and weedlines. We would have been delighted had ‘lunge season ended prior to Thanksgiving. However, Dad’s favourite time of the year for musky was from that weekend through November. The weather was often terrible and it wasn’t unusual to find ourselves navigating our way home through a snow squall. When we got back safely to the warm cottage,we’d whine a quiet complaint to Mom about being conscripted to go out under such questionable conditions but our protestations always fell on deaf ears.


Dad would remind us that not everything in life would come easy and that would effectively end our complaints. We knew Mom was under the opinion that Dad’s Fall fishing was borderline insanity but they’d always present a unified front when confronted with rebellion from their off-spring. It worked both ways. Mom would never qualify as a world class cook. On one occasion she had offered up a nice looking roast of beef for Sunday supper but we noticed Dad was having a little difficulty in carving it. Sure enough, our portions proved to be incredibly tough. We made the mistake of catching each other’s eye. Mimed gagging on my part caused my brother to snort and chuckle. Dad never looked up from his plate but demanded to know if there was a problem. My brother, being younger, usually managed to get away with almost anything. He answered Dad frankly and suggested the beef was somewhat tough. “Hell of a lot tougher if there wasn’t any. Eat up!!” was Dad’s reply, which put a very quick end to this brief conversation.


Our fishing time together wasn’t restricted to soft water. Dad was very experienced at fishing trout on Simcoe through the ice. He and his brother Dave would rent a hut a few times a year and my brother or I would usually accompany them. Uncle Dave was fanatical about fishing and we knew we’d be out from dawn to dusk if he was part of the group. I was restricted to tending the tip-ups for several trips as my initial attempts at working a Williams resulted in the mother of all tangles. I eventually mastered the ability to direct and “play” a Williams in a specific direction. Hence another milestone as I was no longer just the tip-up boy. Years later, I had Dad out on Simcoe in mid-February before he passed on and set him up with a graph and quality rig. “Kinda like takin’ candy from a baby” he opined and I knew from the concentration he was showing that “a decent fish” was on the screen. Somewhere in the basement, the mother of pearl spoon he favoured is resting amongst a variety of old lures no longer used. I’m going to make a point of giving it a try this year if we ever get good ice covering the main lake.

            And while I’m reminiscing, knowing the need no longer exists to “Say one for me!!”, I’ll make time to “say one” for all the kids and youngsters out there that they will be fortunate enough to have as fine a set of parents as the time sharing pair with which my brother and I were blessed "


Jim Nightingale is a former educator ,charter boat captain and one of Lake Simcoe's finest hard water anglers. On any given day Jim will be out on the ice teaching whitefish a lesson!


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