I went trout fishing the other day. Actually fourteen of us fished for four days on Lake Taneycomo near Branson, Missouri. This was our twenty-fifth year for this trip and the usual suspects showed up, kids, brothers and friends.
We floated the lake in an array of boats catching trout, we polished some props in the gravel, we ran out of gas but surprisingly no one went in the water. One night we watched a Ferret cruise the dock looking for a meal and saw an Otter swimming the outside looking for the same thing. All while sitting in the back of someone’s boat under the dock catching trout in the dark.
This is the time one really gets to know a friend, when there is nothing much to do but talk. It’s dark and cold, because the water’s only forty-six degrees, fish are busting the surface all around. Ahhh, if we’d only had a campfire…
We saw sunny skies, rain, wind, a hundred other boats and three times that number of fishermen. We motored to the dam through a maze of currents and water only about a foot deep in places. Fly flingers, bottom draggers, finesse jiggers... we all caught trout.
Did I mention it was all you can eat rib month at Rib Crib? That was a long noisy table what with all the laughing, talking and smacking. I lost count of the number of ribs I ate but I am sure I also lost the contest. We met a guy named Doug Gabriel there too. He was handing out passes to his show down on the strip. Nice fella with an equally impressive pair of boots on his feet. I’m sure his show was a good one but we were all so full of ribs and, well you know how sleepy one gets after tying on the feed bag following a hard day on the water.
Sleeping that close to the water is just plain peaceful. Always cool and quiet with the birds gently waking you at five every morning. Oh well I had to go fishing anyway. If you haven’t figured it out yet this was a fishing trip. No shows or shopping. No night life other than the occasional ice cream cone after supper. In the twenty-five years of making this trip we have had about the same crowd with the same idea, fish till you drop then when you wake up do it again.
We’ve always taken our own food, except for the ribs and always let the cook go for free, he’s done it fourteen years straight now. He even has two menus so we don’t have to eat the same thing every three-hundred-sixty-five days. We’ve witnessed Lilleys Landing Resort go through it’s growing pains to become a wonderful place to stay and we’ve watched Phil and Marsha’s kids get bigger each year until now they’re practically running the place. We missed Jerry Lilley this year. He’s with Jesus now as well as three or four of our original fishing crew and of course we told stories about them all over again this year. People just look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them my friend always Bob threw his fishing rod overboard when he’d had enough, every year. One year Gary caught it and gave it back to him. Bob took that one home that year. Bob embarked on his final life journey to meet the Lord that year after a long battle with cancer. He never made it back to the lake.
I hope that someday the people I love will continue to do the things we do, like fish and hunt and take kids to the zoo and ride motorcycles. But I hope they will remember that we all made each other’s lives a little bit richer just by being together while doing something we loved. I hugged all my kids that weekend and that beats all the fish in the world.