As a kid, I would ask my dad to visit any number of tackle shops near our home outside Buffalo, New York. In our area, there were favorites that we had identified as top stops for new lures and new stuff every new fishing season. We went to three places as a seasonal ritual, but today, all of these stores have closed up shop.
Other top stops in the old days were for advice, asking for help in learning better fishing techniques and for finding lures and supplies that were more affordable than the last stop. Money was not plentiful. My absolute favorite tackle store was United Surplus – this quaint outdoor store was situated on Broadway Avenue in Buffalo.
The owner was a short man named Mr. Paul who always had a happy face and friendly advice, especially for curious kids with very little money in their pocket. I fit right into that category, but he seemed to know that and when he would ask what he could help me find, I would simply say, “just looking for some fishing stuff I can afford”. He would ask, “Well, how much do you have to spend?”
I would hesitate for a moment or two and think to myself – why would I want this guy want to know how much money I have? He’ll probably only charge me more for what I want? But actually, that turned out to never be the case.
The year was 1956. “Mr. Paul”, I would say, “I don’t have very much money today, but I do have about 20 cents and I’m looking for some hooks and sinkers for the fishing season after school ends this year.” That would start a great conversation that was more like a modern fishing seminar today, but way before we called them seminars. He would say, “How big are the fish you want to catch and where are you and your dad going fishing?”
At about seven years old, I didn’t know the name of the creeks we fished, so I just said, “In the creeks near home.” He said, “Where’s home?” You see how it went. Finally, we got down to the fact that we were fishing for opening day trout, stocked trout, and later on, for smallmouth bass in Blossom Creek (Buffalo Creek). I learned this from the pictures of fish he brought out to help me identify what they were. What a guy!
He would then show me how to rig the hooks, crimp the split shot, called “lead shot” in those days, and just how hard to pinch the shot with a pair of pliers. “Here, that’s how it’s done, you try!” Mr. Paul would say. Mr. Paul was a full-service seminar kind of guy! Of course on most visits to United Surplus, my dad was there and learning too, or maybe he just let Mr. Paul think that as owner of the store, he was the expert for now.
In thinking back, yep, that would have been my dad’s style, he always allowed me to think I knew more about fishing than he did, even when I was just seven or eight years old. That never changed as I got older, my dad always made me feel like I was the champion angler and he always made sure that I caught more fish than he did. What a dad! He’s been gone five years now and even though he lived to the ripe age of 85, I sure miss him.
Our last trip together on Lake Erie was fishing at anchor for yellow perch out of Sunset Bay. The fish weren’t very cooperative that day, but we did catch about 20 keepers and guess what? Dad caught 16 of them! He was beaming! I can’t tell you how tough it was not to set the hook on my line, but I wanted to make sure that on this trip, dad caught more than I did; I knew he was getting to the point of fewer trips from home and there might not be a trip next time.
I cannot tell you how good that made me feel and I suddenly realized from thoughts recalled during my childhood days, things had just reversed! To give is definitely better than to receive! To this day, I make sure that most folks in my boat are the winners in the fish count. Try this yourself, it’s more fun for you and for them when you make them the hero! We never argue about lost fish either, no point in that, all of us fish for fun unless we are in a professional tournament. Most local tournaments are fun tournaments too.
To the many folks who donate their time to help out kids fishing derby events all around the country, a giant salute to you all. You too know the wonderful happiness deep down inside your heart that results from those simple labors of helping others learn to catch fish.
Good luck with your tackle box sorting chores, don’t forget to check your line too, disassemble and oil the reels, replace worn rod guides and check your stock of the simple stuff that defines fishing – your hooks and sinkers.
Make it a point to share your fishing skills with someone else this summer! It’s that time of year! Tight lines to everyone!