East of Ely - - Take a Daughter Fishing - What was I thinking?

by David Krikorian -

My daughter, Holland was barely four years old when I took her fishing in my old Wenona SSJ canoe. SSJ was an acronym used by canoeists for “Sling Shot Jensen,” which was tippy by design. But my little girl sat steadily, as she concentrated on catching one panfish after another.
By the time she turned six, she insisted on tying a short fishing line to the end of a willow rod and ended up catching brook trout on a beautiful June afternoon.
Later that summer I asked her if she would like to drive the boat we had rented. She gave me a look, and I looked back to assure her it was okay. Lucky for me (although stupid when I look back) she took control of the fifteen-horse motor and slowly guided us upriver and even through a small rapid where her grinding touch on the throttle kept the small boat at a snail’s pace, while I caught five nice walleyes.
After she drove us back to camp, I showed her how to fillet fish. I have a photo of her studying every slice and dice without the slightest grimace.
I’m sorry to admit what I put her through on that and on other trips.
Just a few days before, we had motored over five miles of unruly waves on the far northern shore of Lake Superior and into the mouth of the White River of Pukaskwa National Park in Ontario. One night on that expedition she caught sight of a lynx on a tree branch hovering over our campfire. I recall that she did express some concern before zipping into the tent. The lynx was almost as big as a mountain lion from our point of view. Yet while I made light of the danger, her fright was dead on.
My brother and I brought her back a few years later. To this day she still complains how we asked her do the Walleye Dance before we went fishing. She was a gymnast at the time and danced with unusual grace.
Her bad father never expected what happened next when a party paddled by with two bare-naked women in the bow of each canoe. As I averted my gaze I connected with Holland eye-to-eye, trying to show her that men like her father weren’t sex-crazed fools.
There were many other trips, including the time we drifted along in our swimsuits and life jackets casting for trout, and the day she caught a heavy splake through the ice just before bad dad had his “dead” minnows inspected by a wildlife officer. God as my witness, I thought freezing the minnows overnight would dispatch all, minus the sole survivor wiggling in the officer’s hand. He was too pleased to see that I had taken my girl fishing to write me a ticket.
Today, Holland fillets all the fish for her small family with a surgeon’s touch. I offered her the same job at our cabin last summer but she was too wise to take the hook so to speak.
Speaking of wisdom. Last Thursday night she graduated from nurse’s school. That she accomplished this while raising her son obviously makes me proud.
I would not dare suggest that this achievement had anything to do with me taking her fishing when she was young. But at so young an age, she demonstrated the kind of tenacity that makes a good caregiver. After all, in her own unique way she was taking care of me.
I do hope she has forgiven me for slugging her along on my eccentric fishing jaunts when other dads would have had the good sense to do something safer.