Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: Fishing Rod Cast Away

Rod and Katie were neighbors that lived next door in Mrs. Hoag’s upstairs apartment. A singing mouse lived in her basement and she would allow kids to stand at the top of basement stairs and listen to the mouse sing. My brothers and I still talk about the singing mouse.

Rod worked with my dad as a lineman for Bell Telephone. Rod’s dream was to become a barber up north where he could enjoy outdoor nature niches.

At some point in my young life, Rod and Katie moved to Tawas City where he opened a barber shop. Our family was invited to visit and we made the great trip. We stayed at their home where Katie made the best waffles and hot chocolate I can remember having. I am sure the best waffles had more to do with the experience than the food. My kids have often heard about the breakfast Katie prepared.

The weather was great and we fished from Tawas pier. Dad had bought my brothers and me fishing poles. Details escape my memory but I expect we visited a bait shop and headed out for an exciting day. Once on the pier, we readied to catch many fish.

Perhaps I was taught how to bait a hook and thread the fishing line though the rod eyelet guides. I was still too young for the art of tying the leader with hook to my line. I learned about leaders, bait, and lures. How to use a reel, cast, and release a lure was part of the day’s events. When to release one’s thumb from the casting release that allowed the line and lure to sail into Lake Huron was a new for me.

We spaced ourselves along the pier to begin the art of fishing. I cast and when I released my thumb the pole jerked and sprung from my hand. I watched it disappear into clear Lake Huron water. It sank in ten to fifteen  feet of water. I called my dad and we looked at the pole that settled on the lake bottom.

Perhaps my dad was angry but I do not recall. Dad, Rod, and my brothers gathered in dismay to look at the lost pole. Rather than angle for fish, the task was now to snag the pole and pull it from the depths of the Great Lake. With a lure or hook on another pole, a line was lowered with plans to retrieve my pole. It looked simple enough but repeated effort proved evasive.

After continued effort, we finally departed without my pole. That was one of my first fishing experiences. Fortunately, I have not lost another pole but I have lost a great many fish. I wonder how many anglers have lost poles. I was probably about six years old. The visit to Tawas City and the fishing pier remains vivid as does Katie’s waffles and hot chocolate.

Another experience I recall my dad telling was when he hooked a gull. It might have been on that trip when dad cast a lure and a gull grabbed it from the air. The hook embedded in the gull’s beak. Dad needed to reel in the gull. Since then I have learned of this happening to another angler.

I probably was not present when the gull was caught or I think my memory would be clearer. After reeling in the gull, the hook was removed and the bird released.

Somewhere at the bottom of Lake Huron is a rod and reel lost about 1956 but vibrant memories are not lost. Fourth of July memories are waiting to be made. Celebrate our nation’s founding by enjoying its natural wonders. The outdoors is beaconing your presence.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.