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Perch Fishing with Grandpa

By Bill Adelman
04/15/15 -- Way, way back in the day, while experiencing my first panfish outings with my grandfather, he taught us, my cousin and I, ages 9, a secret system. Remember the pre-tied 6 pack of Eagle Claw bait hooks? The leader portion was about 6 inches long with a loop at the back end. Grandma did a bit of crochet work, which involved using yellow or brown strips of wool. Grandpa tied a swatch of each color on the #6 bait hooks.

By Bill Adelman
« The author's son with stringer of fish at Stonyford Reservoir near Ladoga

This sorta turned out to be my first flyfishing experience. We fished with Dacron line on level wind reels that didn’t have a reverse stop or a line minder. The cat gut leader was about 6 feet long to which we tied a loop about every 12 inches, and attached our “flies.” A sinker, which grandpa made himself, was tied at the bottom of the leader and out we went in a 12 foot wooden rowboat. Guess who rowed.

Grandpa showed us the way to the hot spots, in a very low whisper. We truly believed back then that the fish could hear us and get spooked. Today I know better, but do understand grandpa’s motivation. We grow too soon old and too late smart.

We just drifted along, dropping this concoction straight down, following his direction. Above all else, be quiet. As a kid I always wanted to check the flies to see if I had a fish. There was no better way to get taken to shore and have to sit out the rest of the day in a funk. We did however, catch on to the fact that it really was possible to detect a strike and avoid grandpa’s wrath. Having once asked if I could cast my rigging in order to see if I could get a bite away from the boat, his reply was short and terse. “If I wanted you to cast, resulting in a backlash, I would have told you to cast.” Don’t recall that I ever asked again. All of this curmudgeon attitude was just grandpa, but we didn’t know it back then. If you want two 9 year old's to behave in a boat, intimidate. In retrospect, it was just plain cool. Still today, when we're fishing at first light and the mist is rising from the water's surface, my mind wanders back to similar experiences so many years ago.

Bill Adelman
The author (bow) and friend try to duplicate Grandpa's success.

In spite of two totally inexperienced kids helping him out, grandpa did manage to put a bunch of crappie or bluegill on a homemade stringer. We were then trusted with his favorite fish knife, which we had to sharpen when cleaning and scaling chores were finished. And yes, we had to clean up all of the scales that didn't fall into the bucket. That same knife is resting today on a bookcase where I can see it and instantly recall those trips. Back then, the first aluminum scaler hit the market at 9 cents each. NINE CENTS??? Not a chance. We whittled, (what the heck is a whittle most of you are asking?), a piece of wood with a 5 inch rounded handle and a 5 inch flat section. Next, sandpaper which we had to turn back in for next time. We then took 5 beer bottle caps and nailed them top side down on the flat end of the whittled handle. VOILA…our very special scaler and it didn’t cost him 9 cents.

By Bill Adelman
Perch fishing was fun for the whole family including my cousin.

The pricks in my palm from the dorsal fins are still deposited in my memory bank. Having once asked grandma if we could cut the fins with her scissors was another lesson quickly learned. So we then tried to cut them off with the recently sharpened knife. The cuts to our fingers were less painful than asking a second time for the scissors. Grandparents, ya gotta love em. There’s no way I’d trade even a moment of these memories for anything else, except possibly for an aluminum scaler. You know, splinters, blisters and all. Tight Lines !!!

Bill Adelman is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of California. His work has appeared in the Fish Sniffer newspaper and MarketPlace magazine. He was a full time freshwater fishing guide for 20 years. Now retired he still likes to serve as a flyfishing instructor, rod builder, outdoor photographer, seminar speaker and hunting mentor.

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