The Ties that Bind

It’s a little after 6:00am and we’re slowly making our way out to open water. It’s still mostly dark, the boat is loping along on one of its two V8 engines and the skipper and I are bathed in the light of the radar, depth sounder and chart displays. I’m quietly sipping coffee. None of our party is completely awake, that’s the nature of ‘up early and at the dock before sun up’. But it feels good. The vessel is called ‘Double Trouble’ and our charter party is three generations of our family. The oldest, my uncle, is in his early 70s. My brother and I are in our 50s. My nephew is not quite 30. My uncle remembers when my brother and I were boys, fishing in a small lake we could walk to from where we lived. I remember my nephew playing with my son and falling out of the apple tree in my back yard, breaking his arm near the wrist.

Our family is somewhat scattered. My sister lives an hour away and her husband works jobs all over the state. Her son is our youngest angler. My brother and I have lost both of our parents. My Uncle has lost one brother and one sister. But we have the morning and our shared love of the outdoors. Hunting and fishing have been binding ties throughout all of our lives. From my grandfather down to my granddaughter there are pictures of us holding rods and fish, sitting in boats or even just standing on shore. There are pictures of us dressed for hunting, holding our guns or posing with game. My brother and I both took nice gobblers the opening weekend of turkey season. I’m in the tech industry, working for a Silicon Valley company, and he is a tradesman, making high-end aerospace parts and tooling for industrial machines. We have little in common for our vocation, but we both love the woods and water.

These trips always have three parts. The getting there, the fishing (or hunting) and the getting back. My brother offered to drive, so the four of us piled into his truck for the trip. The windshield time is good. We talk. Calob and I are both in tech. My brother and uncle in the trades. We all have homes, and family and past adventures to talk about. It’s familiar, comfortable. It’s much the same at dinner. And talking in the hotel before bed. But we’re in bed by 10:00 because we’re up at 5:00. And there’s coffee in the morning. Blessed coffee.

Our boat gets to the end of the channel with its protective breakwater, and dead ahead is a dredging barge and tug. The captain picks his way through the marker buoys and then opens up the throttles on both engines. There’s a pleasantly muffled growl and the 37-footer gets on plane. The water is relatively smooth and we run down to the near shore area where he and his guests caught 18 fish yesterday. It’s a gray day, but comfortable and soon the lines are set and we’re watching the rods for a sign of fish on. It’s not very long before there’s one on and my nephew is handed the rod for the retrieve. The fish spits the lure as soon as it’s in sight of the boat. We lose two more before we start catching cohos in earnest. There were a few lake trout too. Big, heavy and rewarding to fight, and not too bad to eat.

We’re on the water for seven hours. We catch a total of eight fish. It’s not exactly a haul, but these trips aren’t really about the fish. It’s our shared passion for the water, and the opportunity to spend time together, sharing a bit of our lives with our kin. It’s the good natured banter and teasing. The blue language punctuated with laughter. It’s sometimes simply bobbing our heads to the music playing on the boat’s sound system as we watch the wake and the rods. The wind picks up as the day wears on, making us feel a bit colder. I’m dressed in new Gore-Tex rain gear, but it doesn’t rain until we’re on the drive home.

On the way back to the dock we’re already talking about the next adventure. When are we fishing again? Whose boat are we taking? What lake? Have we lined up the fall walleye charter yet (it’s still spring). The ride home is quieter. I fall asleep for a bit. We’re all a little tired from the air and being up early. We’re fading back into our routine. But we’re still talking about fishing trips from decades ago. Who was there. What it was like. There’s no doubt we will get together again. Some combination of us anyways. It’s what we do. It’s the common thread. The ties that bind.

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