Boys in a boat
By Kenneth Robinson
Dad would barrel through the hall and bark at us to wake up and get ready. The oddity of dressing and leaving the house before daylight was a curious feeling. But we were going fishing!
Eventually, there were five boys. But the first outings on Opening Day were for the first three brothers in the clan. Our destination was Lake Fenwick, near Kent. The year was 1952. The Kent Valley was a vast, fertile area where the Green River flooded annually until the Army Corps of Engineers built dikes to contain it. And to allow development that gave us a vast field of concrete structures, roads and houses. But back then, the lake was a big dark mysterious pool surrounded by trees.
At the north end, there was a shack where small boats could be rented. Motors were not allowed on the lake. Oars moved the boats through the dark waters.
Mom must have packed the lunch the night before: a paper sack containing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Wonder Bread. There were a couple of oranges to be shared. When the sack got wet, so did the sandwiches in wax paper. But we were kids and would eat just about anything. After all, we were on an adventure. Dad showed us the technique of eating a sandwich without holding it in your hand. It was important to keep your hands free in case you got a bite.
We used salmon eggs for bait. Dad kept a jar of Pautzke’s eggs in his tackle box. He had owned the jar for several seasons. The cap was a little tight from goo that had dripped over the edge of the bottle and dried. Once the cap came off, the murky luminous orange cluster looked back at us like little eyeballs. On top was the shard of a burnt match that Dad has dropped in there when lit to remove oxygen. That practice supposedly kept the eggs fresher.
A queer smell of sulphur and fish rose of the jar.
Dad showed us how to gob eggs on a little golden hook. At times, there were three rods hanging over the side of the boat as Dad rowed slowly along the shore. Trout, he told us, would most likely be near the shore where they are looking for something to eat. Bugs, mice, and maybe a salmon egg. Trout are cannibals, he told us, and are happy to eat the eggs of their kind.
Meanwhile, the youngest boy in the boat, Tim, was looking around on the bottom for a banana or anything else to eat. He had already eaten his PB&J sandwich and half of another one. His interest in fishing was not as keen at age 6 as it became.
We each caught a few trout, 8-inchers planted by the state annually, and dropped them in a wicker creel lined with damp ferns. This method of keeping the catch cool is burnt into our brains. Nowadays, we catch and release.
But then we did it as Dad taught us.
The best part of the day was being in the boat with my Dad and brothers, swying gently this way and that, caressed by the dawn and the tall trees around the lake, shrouding everything. We were huddled against the chill morning air, sharing a secret pact of togetherness and it was wonderful.
I first fished Fenwick about 10 years later...last June I took my 8 year old grandson to try our luck at Fenwick! Good story Ken.