- Life is about sharing your passion, making new friends and finding that next…First Cast
By Bob Holzhei
No matter how old you are, there is always a next first cast.
I slowly walked to the pond behind our rental home in Punta Gorda, FL to field test the custom fishing rod I asked a friend, Charter Captain Tom Marks, to make for me. He is an avid outdoor angler from Derby, NY who vacations to Florida in the winter, and he lived just a short morning walk from our location. Lucky me!
Tom orders his rod building supplies from Mud Hole, a rod building and tackle crafting company from Oviedo, FL.
I tied on a Size 2/0 Mustad worm hook with a Mr. Twister Tri-Alive plastic nightcrawler, after Outdoor Writer Dave Barus, from East Aurora, NY showed me how to rig the hook to make the worm totally weedless. Weeds, lookout! Here I come!
The custom metallic red color 7-foot rod, complete with a rattlesnake skin handle, created a “one of a kind” treasure. It was my first cast with a new custom rod. I slowly opened the bail on the STX Abu Garcia Reel and gingerly arched the rod behind me. The bait was cast to the other side of the narrow pond. In that first cast, the line was suspended in mid-air for a moment and frozen in my memory. A motionless flying worm! I hoped a screaming osprey from the nearby swamp would stay where he was. He did.
I fished in my early years, once a year, but only if dad had a good year on the farm. We’d drive just over an hour to Tawas, MI to board a perch fishing boat – The Miss Charity Isle. A love affair with the natural world was conceived on our family farm that was nourished each year as crops sprouted from the ground.
As I got older, I’d ride my bicycle to nearby ditches and adjoining cuts located near Quanicassee, MI to fish for perch from the piers.
As I got older and married, I took my three boys on a charter salmon fishing trip out of Ludington, MI to rediscover the love for once-a-year fishing moments from my childhood. We boated 12 nice-sized salmon. Needless to say, I was all-in. The following spring, I purchased a used 18-foot 11-inch Sportcraft boat. I was hooked, reeled-in and would enjoy a lifetime love affair with the natural world through fishing.
Today, the boat has been stored in a pole barn for the past three years and I suppose I should sell it. Anglers go through stages of fishing, first fishing from nearby ditches, then to cuts, piers and eventually a boat is purchased. I’ve transitioned back to where I began and this summer am again fishing from piers with the first cast of the day once again near my childhood home.
As I returned 70 years later, I was surprised that the landscape had drastically changed. There were no perch or panfish in the area. The perch party boat had relocated to a southern port and was taking folks to fish across Lake Huron to Port Austin, at the tip of the Michigan Thumb. That’s a long way to travel across the lake for fish dinners at a restaurant. Perch could be ordered from various restaurants in the area and the menu clarified, “The perch come from Lake Erie.”
My wife and I camped for a month at a city park on Lake Huron, noticing first that between 12 to 16 campsites were vacant. This popular park was always filled to capacity. After visiting with campers, I found that the park had raised camping rates from $90.00 a month to an outrageous $1,000.00 per month. That just seems like too much for a campsite park with only water, sewer, and electricity. No additional amenities were provided. Internet and cell phone service was only available occasionally (or non-existent). After the first week, I longed for the month to end and will return to the west side of Michigan where Lake Michigan awaits our return.
I suppose it’s good to camp (and fish) at new places from time to time, to determine where my wife and I feel most comfortable taking that next first cast.
I think I can recall every one of those first casts – there have been many. The bottom line, I love to fish and revisit those old memories that helped make me who I am.