He'd drive us to get the live bait while I filled the fish cooler with saltwater and chunks of ice. We'd then go back to right in front of the house and set up shop with our chairs, four poles and the tackle box. He and I'd spent the evening rigging them, two with lures, one top, one bottom, and two with corks, one deep, one shallow. We'd start with live bait, and move to the lures if the water looked muddy or we ran out of bait because of catfish and crabs.
We'd fish through all the bait. We'd catch a few, talk about making gumbo, about when we caught 5 speckled trout, about the big red over 40 pounds I pulled in one summer, and the times we got skunked. We'd curse backlashes and faulty casts and compliment when we threw a beauty. Somewhere around 11, we'd break out the food, ravenously hungry, but the surf would call again, though my dad would mess around with the big fishing rods, casting and then walking back to shore. We'd stay until I got tired, which he knew was some time around 1:30-2. Then we'd load up and drive back, he'd make me gut anything I caught before going in because he knew I'd shower, eat and crash. You catch, you clean. That's the rule.
After a three hour nap, Mom would wake me for Birthday dinner. It was always the same, always perfect and always what I wanted; sandy hot dogs cooked over a fire on the beach with frito pie as a side and Texas Sheet Cake with vanilla ice cream for dessert, all washed down with a coke, or when I got older, a pina colada. It never mattered (well it did but it didn't), if we caught anything or not, I always loved those days. A bad day fishing beats a good day doing almost anything else I thought. I'd give anything for one more bad day fishing with my dad.
But it's been years since I've been able to really fish, owing to small children, living half the country away, and now, we are separated by death. I have a rod he commissioned for me for my birthday nine years ago. Life has allowed it to remain rarely touched. It's in the garage but I've resolved, this year, I'm going to go and get a line in the water.
Miss you Dad.