When I grew up in rural Oklahoma, fishing was a part of life – something I took for granted and didn’t really appreciate until many years later. One of my first fishing memories is sitting with my father and grandpa on the bank of one of our farm ponds and watching my bobber tremble nervously on the surface of the water. I could feel the anticipation when my grandpa whistled a little melody. The only other noises were those of mooing cows, birds singing, and all the great noises outside that one hears in the country.
Denise Wagner with a brown trout
We didn’t use fancy rods or reels, just tube rods with lines, hooks and bobbers. The bait depended on what was available. Sometimes we caught grasshoppers or crickets, sometimes worms.
When the bobber finally dived, that was the excitement! I can still hear my dad yelling, “You have one!” I would grab the bar and make an effort to pull the fish up. My little brother’s technique was to go backwards up the bank with the pole until the fish was out of the water. Then he dropped everything and ran to grab the fish before falling back into the pond.
Sunfish were most commonly caught with the occasional catfish bit the hook. Everyone was a trophy!
Years later, my father and his grandchildren fished in the same farm ponds, sometimes with reed rods, but also with spinning rods. My husband introduced me to saltwater fishing, deep sea fishing, and fly fishing. He even suggested hand noodles, but this is an adventure I want to live without.
Fishing makes lasting memories
All of these fishing times together are memories I will never forget.
Memories are powerful things. Sometimes you don’t realize you’re doing it. But sights and sounds and even emotions like excitement that you feel while fishing become valuable information that is stored and retrieved, come back to visit and make you smile. I have so many wonderful fishing memories.
Photo: Longear Sunfish by Craig Springer
Fish for your memories
This year, during National Fishing and Boating Week, June 1-9, share a special fishing memory or photo with #GetYourFishOn and tag @USFWSfisheries on Facebook or Twitter.
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Denise is the education and outreach coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fish and Water Conservation Program. Her career began as a teacher in Oklahoma, where she received numerous teaching awards for developing and implementing the state’s first schoolyard living space. Other experiences include the Director of Youth Programs and the Manager of the Wildlife Visitor Center at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Missoula, MT, and the National Program Manager for National Day of Hunting and Fishing.