A Grandpa’s Lesson

My grandfather, Daniel Ward, passed away a little more than a decade ago. Now in my 30s I’m starting to understand some of the lessons he gave me throughout life, while learning new ones that he is still teaching me in his absence.

My grandparents on my mother’s side played an instrumental role in raising my brother and I. They attended every school and sporting event we were in such as presentations given on grandparents day in preschool and soccer games on the weekends. I could always hear them cheering me on from the sidelines or from the back of the classroom. They were always there when we needed them. My grandma used “hands on” approaches to teaching and shaping me, while grandpa used a “give direction and purpose and let ‘em figure out the rest” approach. This kind of teaching went beyond the simple “this is how you do it” methods and dove further into the “this is why you do it” lessons. Somehow the one lesson I didn’t grasp during his lifetime was about fishing. 

He was an extremely passionate and dedicated fisherman. He always shared fishing stories around the table at family events or attempted to show me how to correctly tie a hook on a line when the moment was right. As time went on so did the lessons, but I started to divert my attention as most kids do. As a teenager, I would humor him and give minimal attention until he would allow me to return to my skateboard waiting in the driveway. Next thing I know I was a 19-year-old skater punk who just got word that his grandpa had a stroke. The following days became a blur as I dealt with the sudden and unexpected loss of this person who had always been there in my life. “Was that it?”, I asked myself. “No more lessons or guidance? No more talks on subjects far and wide?” The short answer: No, this was not the end.

Of the numerous items entrusted to me, his fly rod left an impression, “but why?” I wondered. “I don’t even know how to cast that thing.” He never showed me how to operate this equipment… or I never listened. Holding this brightly colored line wrapped around an elegant and classic reel while staring down the 8.5’ graphite rod sparked an interest I never had before; I now felt the need to understand this fly fishing thing. My grandmother dug out a dusty VHS tape on casting, a few magazine clippings, and a few flies that were scattered about the house. I watched that film and studied those articles as if I were prepping for brain surgery. I practiced casting that rod in the side yard so much that I destroyed the fly line from hitting grass and stones around the house. In no time I was ready to hit the water. 

What I still hadn’t learned was the “why” part of fly fishing. Why bother with all this difficult casting and strange lures when I can catch a fish with a worm and bobber like he showed me as a kid.  After years of dedicated learning to this strange way of fishing, I believe this whole thing was one of his “let him figure it out on his own” kind of lessons. “Just equip him and give a slight nudge in the right direction; the current will steer him where he needs to be.”

Now, so many years later, I continue to cast a fly towards rising fish but not alone. My wife has been captured by the fly fishing bug along with so many of my close friends who are now also enjoying this amazingly captivating sport that teaches so much more than “how to catch a fish.” We learn the “why” part of fly fishing by being an active participant, but I’m not going to share that lesson with you, it is one you will need to figure out for yourself. It’s worth it.  

In the last decade, I have acquired and retired a lot of fly fishing equipment to meet the needs of our many fishing adventures. One important piece still makes it on almost every outing: that classic fly reel from my grandfather. It has felt the tug and loss of so many fish, like the emotions that come along with the relationships we build with our loved ones and the moment we lose them. I like to believe that my grandfather controls the drag of this old reel, playing out the fish with his lessons, sometimes too strong, sometimes too subtle, but always in the exact way he wanted me to learn the “why” part when it comes to fishing and life.

A Grandpa’s Lesson

By Eric Berendsen

2 thoughts on “A Grandpa’s Lesson”

  1. Eric…

    If your grandfather was to watch the “live documentary” of all the things that you have accomplished over the past decade, including the crescendo of launching an exquisite business endeavor, Bear And Sun Outdoors, to share your passions he would say, “Grandson…you figured it out!” Well done! Congratulations! Get R Done! Ken J.

    1. Ken,

      Thank you for the kind words. We too believe he would be proud of us for following our passions and helping others shape theirs along the way.

      Tight Lines,
      Eric & Michelle Berendsen

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