My church pastor, Desi Larson, is embarking on a series of sermons focused on fishing themes, and asked members of the congregation to send her our fishing stories. Here are the two I just emailed to her.
Fishing with Vishal
My grandson Vishal spent his first three years in an orphanage in India. He joined our family six years ago and has been a real treasure. Vishal is an exceptional artist and athlete, and he’s also a fishing machine. Fishing is where we connect most closely, and every day on the water with V is a very special day for us both. It amazes me that this young boy could start his life so far away in India, and end up here in Maine as my fishing buddy.
When Vishal was 6 years old, we fished a favorite pool on a small stream near my north woods camp. We hiked into the stream and I carried him across the water on my back. Then we trudged along the stream until we reached one of my favorite pools where I was pretty sure he could catch some trout.
V had not learned to cast a fly yet, so I cast, then handed him the rod to set the hook and land the native brook trout that live here. He began catching trout immediately and after removing the hook from the first 8 inch trout, I handed it to Vishal and encouraged him to release it.
Well, he reared back and tossed it like a football out into the stream. “Well, V,” I said, “I guess I need to give you a bit more instruction!” Fish number two got a much nicer release. After we’d landed about two dozen trout, he caught a beautiful 13 inch fish, carefully released it, then looked up with those big eyes and said, “Grampy, we’re both very happy.” Boy, he got that right!
It’s no accident that much of my career was spent as an advocate for Maine sportsman, or that I am now writing outdoor news focused on conservation and environmental issues. My Dad, Ezra Smith of Winthrop, set me on this course from birth. In 2013 Dad and I hunted together for the 53rd year, a wonderful privilege for me. I guess we must have fished together for 60 years.
In the spring of 2014, Dad entered the Hospice Unit at the Togus Veterans Administration, with serious life-ending health problems. But he actually thriving there, for six months, thanks to the wonderful professional staff and amazing volunteers. They set up a corner of his room with his painting supplies, and he did a lot of painting. His room was stuffed with his paintings and carvings, and one week he had me bring in his keyboard so he could play some music. When our church choir visited to sing for Dad and the other patients and staff, Dad stepped up to John Twitchell’s keyboard and played a few of his favorite hymns.
And I got him out six times to fish for brook trout. On the Togus campus, in a small pond created by a dam on the stream that passes through there, he was able to catch brook trout – right in the middle of some hot sunny summer days. The first time we fished, it was a very hot afternoon, and I told Dad not to expect to catch anything – trout don’t bite on hot sunny afternoons. On his first cast, he caught a beautiful trout.
He only got skunked one time, but as he told the staff at the Hospice Unit when we returned, it was good fishing, poor catching. He didn’t seem at all disappointed. All of the fish were returned to the water, accept one we accidentally killed. Dad’s lady friend Irma got to take that one home for supper.
If you ever feel you might not be getting your money’s worth from your Maine fishing license, consider this. Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife stocks that Togus pond with brook trout, for the patients at the hospital and in the other units. Only the patients are allowed to fish there. And yes, the Togus police stopped a couple of times to make sure I was not fishing!
I would wheel Dad out to the Subaru in his wheelchair, drive over to the pond, wheel him out to the edge of the water, in a nice shady spot, and hand him his light spinning rod. Sitting there, watching him cast, was worth a whole lot more than I paid for my fishing license. And every cast represented a parcel of wonderful memories.