Living in the land of drought, freeways and smog is not something that lends itself to outdoor adventures.
As a father, raising my daughter to appreciate the outdoors when you live in a world of concrete is also a challenge. Fortunately, my wife and I have figured out a few ways to incorporate the outdoors in many things we do. We don’t let our surroundings completely govern how we enjoy the outdoors. Be it archery, fishing, hiking or getting the binoculars out to view wildlife, we have a great time. Those were also a few of the many things my dad shared with me growing up, so I am encouraged when my daughter wants to be involved. He made sure that if the sun was up, we were outside doing something. I am forever grateful for that. Thanks, Dad.
Father’s Day with my dad was always spent in the outdoors, and most of the time it was fishing. Whether it was on the farm pond, our boss’s pond or out on the lake, we would fish and have a great time. For me, just spending that time with Dad was priceless. He had given us the tools to fish, shared his knowledge, and now it was our time to have fun and make the most of it.
MY FAVORITE FATHER’S Day story will take me back about 25 years. My dad, who we call Skip, loves to fish – I mean really loves to fish – and he’s very good at it. But I remember a time when we just got lucky and had the time of our lives.
We set out one morning to fish near the Seneca Lake Rod & Gun club, just outside of Geneva, N.Y., in the Finger Lakes. My brother and I had been looking forward to the trip all week, but I think Dad was even more excited.
Once we had our little 12-foot aluminum boat in the water, we motored out just where the dropoff began and anchored. It looked to me that we were far too close to shore, but I trusted Dad. I’ll never forget using live sawbellies as bait and dropping our lines down to just off of the 100-foot bottom. Fishing two poles apiece required some deft maneuvering in that little boat.
The first half-hour or so was slow, but then all broke loose when we got into a school of lake trout.
“Me, too! Fish on!” That’s how it went for the next couple hours. We kept catching fish and some we threw back, just because the average size was 7 pounds.
We ran out of bait, so we began using the old, dead sawbellies, and the trout were even hitting them! We caught so many fish that we almost breathed a sigh of relief when one threw the hook, but that rarely happened. To this day, the three of us consider it one of the best days we have ever spent together.
Spending time outdoors was what it was all about when we were with Dad. Between fishing, camping and hunting, we were always outdoors doing something. I have story upon story of great hunts, scary hunts and hilarious antics. I now want to pass that love on to my daughter.
A COUPLE YEARS ago I began to take my daughter Riley out to the local lakes to fish. The times we have ventured out have been very warm and the water levels very low, but we have had great times anyway. I love listening to her tell me about the fish she wants to catch and how big it will be.
We have a traditional breakfast of donuts on the tailgate of my wife’s truck, where we talk and laugh. By the time our lines hit the water, our faces are covered in powdered sugar, and it is wonderful.
I remember the day I bought her a bow with suction-cup-tipped arrows. She was very excited and I, of course, was elated! When I’d shoot with my bow she could shoot hers. It is great to see her emulate me and practice shooting at our pig target. Recently, as she asked me to get her bow out, I realized that she had grown a great deal over the last year and the bow no longer fit her. When I said we would have to go to Bass Pro Shops for a new bow, she actually seemed more excited than me.
Camping in our backyard is a favorite activity. Riley’s little eyes light up every time I ask her if she wants to camp. It reminds me of the days when I used to camp with Dad and the memories that we made. When my dad would ask us if we wanted to go camping, I remember the feeling of excitement knowing we would get to share in something wonderful.
CAMPING WITH DAD was always fun. We always had an adventure to talk about when we got back to school, but the best part were the laughs and good times we shared. The most memorable camping trip I ever shared with my dad and brother was when I was in my early teens. One of the things I love about Dad is that when we went camping, we did everything ourselves. I’ll come back to that thought in a minute (that’s when the story gets interesting).
Dad drove the 4½ hours to the boat launch. After we launched the boat and loaded our gear, we set off. I forget how long it took us, but we were in that very same 12-foot aluminum boat we spent Father’s Day in, so it wasn’t very fast. We motored to the far reaches of the lake. Two leaning pine trees marked our campsite by the water. We set up camp, ate dinner and prepared for the weeklong fish fest.
Fishing in the acid rain-affected lakes of the Adirondacks was a challenge. Over the course of five days, we caught two fish. No, let me rephrase– I caught two. The bobber zipping around the surface made us go a bit nutty in the boat. When I pulled in the whopping 4-inch perch we did everything we could from not tipping the boat from laughter.
A few hours later I would catch a very nice smallmouth bass, which we planned to eat that evening. We happened to be very tired when we got back, so we left it on the stringer by the boat, and went to sleep. The next morning Dad must have had an epiphany because he beelined for the stringer only to find a head and nothing else. He felt really bad (I mean really bad), but I didn’t fault him. In fact, I found it funny that we hadn’t thought about the raccoons and bears in the area.
Remember when I said we did everything ourselves? Well, it took a turn for the serious toward the end of our trip. Our motor kept conking out and Dad had to do what he could to get it going again. We were 5 miles from the boat launch!
He cleaned the spark plugs and it began to hum better than before, but it was short-lived as it completely died after that. So Dad had to row the boat loaded down with us and our gear the entire 5 miles back to the launch. I tried to help, but at just 14 years old, I wasn’t used to rowing a boat loaded with that amount of weight. My dad was a trooper that week, and we had the best time with him.
ALAS, I DIGRESS! Camping with my daughter, even in the backyard, is a wonderful experience. I absolutely love her sense of adventure and planning. We get to test out new gear, plus she gets to do something fun and gets to spend time with her dad. It’s a win for all!
The best part of every camping “trip” I take with Riley is watching her as she sleeps and knowing how much she loves the outdoors. My second favorite part is when she wakes up and she wants to read me a dozen stories from inside the tent. That tent is a magical place for her and, in turn, it is for me as well.
Once a child, and now a father, I feel as though my childhood disappeared very quickly. I realize as I write this that six years of my daughter’s life have flown by. Time has moved on, but do I hold any regrets? Not a single one! In fact, I plan on more father/daughter dates, fishing trips, camping trips, and archery practice.
Should she choose to drop them all and never want to do them again, I will continue to love her unconditionally as any good father should. But knowing her love of the outdoors, I will continue to nurture it in the hope that one day she will take her old man on an outdoor adventure that she will tell stories about like I tell of trips with Dad. CS
Editor’s note: For more on the author, check out socalbowhunter.com.