Ever since I was 4 or 5, I wanted to fish. My first recollection of actually putting a hook in the water is with my dad, my younger brother Stephen and Great-grandma Lillard. It was 1969, and we were visiting Grandma in Craig, Colo.
The whole way in the car to Craig, I wanted to stop and fish every stream, pond, lake and river the station wagon came upon. Of course, not owning a fishing pole wasn’t going to help me — and each time I asked, my father reminded me of that fact.
All I knew was that I wanted to fish. My dad planted the seed, having told us countless boyhood stories of hunting and fishing while he grew up in Casper, Wyo. He said his Grandma Lillard taught him how to fish as a boy — and now here we were, on our way to the “grandma of fishing.” I was so excited.
We arrived in the early afternoon, and the first words out of my mouth to this larger-than-life, matronly woman I had never met were, “Can you take me fishing?”
What a laugh it was that erupted and echoed through the trees. The adults, after a two-day drive, just wanted to visit, eat and relax. They kindly patted my head and brushed past me in a group hug toward the back door.
During the next couple days, we met countless relatives, neighbors and friends of Grandma Lillard, none of whom seemed to give a hoot about fishing.
Finally, after several days, my dream came true. We were up with the sun, a picnic lunch in hand and off to a little creek. I even got to see my fishing pole — a huge, towering buggy whip.
Red worms were the ticket. And the first-time experience of shish kebabing those onto a hook was, well, fun.
Fish after fish, laugh after laugh, was the order of the day. My pole was very long, with about 6 feet of monofilament tied to the tip. We simply dipped the worm and hook in the stream. Wham!
That dear woman, I realize now, did teach me something about fishing, just as she did my father — patience. Even if it’s being patient to simply go fishing.
On the day we left, she kissed me and said, “There is something in the car you can have once you get home”
After the long, long drive back to Oakland, as Dad unloaded the trunk of the car, he handed me something wrapped in a blanket.
It was the fly rod I had used while with grandma. It had this note attached:
“Ricky, have fun, catch lots of fish! See you soon, Love Grand Ma.”
Sadly, I never fished again with Grandma Lillard — she died a few years later. But the fly rod was a mystery. I wanted to learn more about fly fishing — but where to go, who to talk to?
Years passed, and in 1997, living in Tracy, I got the chance to learn more from the Tracy Fly Fishers, the then-new fly-fishing club in town.
The local club prides itself on teaching new people about the great sport of fly-fishing. And the members did just that for me and my kids. I’ve been a member ever since and now oversee education for the club.
You, too, have a chance to check it out. The Tracy Parks and Recreation Department is once again offering a variety of spring classes to the public. The Tracy Fly Fishers will put on a full day of adventures in fly-fishing. Now, seats are limited to only 20, so sign up quickly, because I know that spaces in last year’s class went fast. Go to www.ci.tracy.ca.us and click on the “Parks and Community Services” links.
I hope to see you at one of TFF’s events — maybe you and I can even fish together. Or, better yet, we’ll give you the chance to fish with your grandmother or grandchild.
Oh, the stories you will have to tell.
• Richard Clemens has lived in Tracy since 1990 and has been a fly fisherman and upland game hunter since childhood. He is an avid member of the Tracy Fly Fishers. He can be reached by sending comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.