There aren’t many experiences that nurture a father-child relationship like fishing. I have fond memories of fishing with my dad growing up in Vermont. He would pack me, my Snoopy fishing pole, some snacks, and a bucket of worms into his car and we’d head out to the shore of Lake Champlain. I was a fidgety little girl and I’m sure I whined enough to scare off all the fish in the lake; but my dad loved me and I guess he wanted to expose me to the finer enjoyments of life.
We would catch pumpkin seeds, a modest little fish that at least in my little kid mind, seemed quite fearsome. They have some nasty spines and I got the bad end of them a couple of times. I’m not sure how many trips in total we made, it seemed like a million, but they were great bonding moments. Dad would wrap the icky worm around the hook and hand the pole to me. I’d get all excited when I saw the flashy little red and white bobber disappear under the water, and he’d talk me through bringing the tiny little fish in. He’d let me get a good peek at it, remove the hook and toss the pumpkin seed back in the water. We’d continue this ritual for a couple of hours until the snacks ran out, and my unwillingness to heed the call of nature in the woods made heading home a necessity.
My dad was blessed with four daughters, no sons, and one day he pushed his luck by requiring my sisters and me to begin baiting our own hooks. The magic was over, there was no way he could convince us to comply. Dad had to find another way to connect with us (letting us put barrettes in his hair, etc).
Sometimes I wish I hadn’t been such a little girl when I was a little girl. Lucky for him, and for me, I now work for a fishing magazine. I’ve got time and opportunity to redeem myself. Maybe I should repaid him for the lessons of patience and appreciation of the great outdoors with some big action billfish excursion. (I probably also owe him for teaching me to drive a stick shift, being a teenager, and putting me through college too.) When he reads this, he’ll undoubtedly agree!
I guess if I were going to send him after a billfish, I’d pick the spot where Guy Harvey has been more than 50 times: Tropic Star Lodge (TSL) in Panama. Not only is the fishing terrific but it’s set in a spectacular setting. Books have been written about the wonders of the place. Guy Harvey just finished one, Panama Paradise, A Tribute to Tropic Star Lodge. If any man knows a place to fish, it’s Dr. Harvey.
Just the other day I had the opportunity to speak with Jim Taylor, he had just gotten back from a visit to TSL. Jim took his son, Jay, and grandson, Reid on a trip for Reid’s 10th birthday. The entire family loves to fish and Jim has always wanted to make the trip down to Panama. Reid was so excited, he did his research on the Panama Canal and the plethora of saltwater species in the waters off the coast, made his “must catch” list and couldn’t wait to get out on the water!
Jim, Jay and Reid caught a menagerie of fish during their 3 day stay: dorado, tuna, spanish mackerel, a 100 lb. sailfish, rock snapper, and red snapper. One of the “must catch” candidates was roosterfish. On the last day out, Reid and his grandfather reeled in a whopping, 60 lb. roosterfish. The mate and staff aboard, took Reid’s enthusiasm to heart and let him assist with everything from getting the bait ready to cleaning the fish, even getting him to try tuna sashimi (which he didn’t like as much as the seared tuna they had later for dinner).
Back on land, the staff gave the family a tour of the woodworking and fiberglass shops where they rebuild their boats. Jim’s last statement said it all, it’s “a great place for kids, an unbelievable experience, really suited for kids and families.”
The Taylor’s left with a camera full of photos, hearts full of memories, and Reid’s prized possession, an autographed copy of Panama Paradise. (By the way, TSL’s giving copies to folks who book trips for July, August, or September)
So here’s to making memories, great fishing, the beauty of the outdoors, and Dad!