Something Greater

The day I decided I didn’t like fishing was the day my dad took me fishing for the first time. I was three years old. I was so excited to be going on this special trip, just he and I. I can’t remember where we went or whose boat we borrowed. All I know is we were at a lake surrounded by the tallest of trees that offered a nice reprieve from the summer sun beating down on the water. (Not that my little three-year-old self cared about such things. I was of the age when the heat would plaster my ringlets to my face, sweat dripping in my eyes, and I wouldn’t mind one bit.) I remember looking down at the boat from the dock. It was small, just your typical rowboat. I stood on the dock waiting for my dad to put all the fishing gear onto our tiny boat. After settling everything in its spot he took me into his arms and placed me on the wooden seat across from him. I mustered all my strength to hold on to one side of the boat as he rowed away from the shore, my body engulfed by my life preserver. But I didn’t mind, the anticipation of catching my first fish was killing me. I had no idea though that most of fishing is waiting.

As my dad rowed further into the lake I peered over the edge watching the ripples circle off the oar. We soon arrived to where my dad thought would be a good spot to cast a line, and he began fiddling in his tackle box.

“Go ahead and pull out the juiciest worm in there, Jess. The fish really like the plump ones.” He handed me the container full of worms we had bought from the dingy bait shop just a few hours earlier. As he tied his hook onto his fishing line I selected the fattest one of the bunch and let him wiggle through my fingers. It tickled and I giggled, aware that in a matter of seconds he’d be hooked and tossed in the water ready to be feasted on by one unlucky passerby.

“OK, Jess, you’re up!” My dad said after hooking my wiggly friend. He casted the line and handed me the pole. I held on with dear life as the goofiest grin spread across my face.

And then we waited.

Within a few minutes, but what felt like hours to me, my line started to jiggle. I quickly looked to my dad who whispered, “I think you got one. Start reeling.” I put into practice what he taught me earlier that day and began reeling as fast as my little hand could turn. He gently put his hand over mine to help with the slack until finally we pulled the fish into the boat. I immediately saw the blood and panicked.

“Daddy, my fish!” I gasped, hot tears beginning to well. I knew what this meant. My poor fish was going to die.

You see, my dad told me when we go fishing we always put the fish we catch back, still alive. Catch and release. But this time was going to be different. There was no catch and release. This fish was completely covered in its own blood and I was the one who killed it. My little self couldn’t handle the guilt. I cried heavy sobs as my dad tried to unhook the unfortunate fish while also trying to prevent blood from spilling all over the boat. He reassured me that it was just one fish, everything was going to be okay, and I could still enjoy this sport. But I had it settled in my mind, and that day I decided fishing wasn’t for me.

Looking back I feel bad for my dad. I can imagine how thrilled he was to take his little girl on a small adventure. He was going to teach her what his father taught him. He was going to be able to pass down a love for nature and the great outdoors. But one little bloody fish had to ruin that. Since that fateful day my dad has tried convincing me to give it another shot. He’s taken me fishing a few more times after but my mind has been forever closed to the possibility of ever enjoying it.

What my dad desired for me I desire for my own children. I want to show them the world. I want to introduce them to the things I love. And I hope they will enjoy the same things I enjoy.


We introduced Anna to the beach at an early age. She’d run toward the waves with abandon, not realizing just how big it all was. When we were vacationing to Lake Michigan one summer we let her loose to splash and frolic on the shore. While not as big of waves as you would encounter at the ocean, Lake Michigan’s waves are big enough to wipe out a two year old who is still trying to get familiar with her own stability. And that’s exactly what happened. She tumbled, she quickly returned to her feet, and then she cried great big sobs.

Throughout the rest of our vacation, with fear in her voice, she wouldn’t stop talking about “the big waves”. We would ask if she wanted to go back to the beach and she would begin to cry. We understood she was scared. It had to be a scary thing for a toddler but we also knew how much fun she had up until that dreadful fall, and we didn’t want her to miss out because of one wave.

“Be brave, Anna! You can do it! You’ll love it!” We would encourage her. Because we know how great it is to run from the waves and let them chase you back to the sandy shore. It’s worth the trepidation.

On the last day of our trip we returned to the lake. Hand in hand we walked Anna down to the waves. Before our toes hit the water she gazed up at me with her big brown eyes. It was almost as if she was looking to me to make sure it was safe, that I was going to be right there, and wondering if it was going to be worth the jump.

“Go ahead, sweetheart. It’s going to be great!” And it was.


During our week to Lake Michigan I was constantly being reminded of the bloody fish I caught with my dad. Travis was doing a lot of fishing and was thrilled to share his love of it with his daughter, just like my dad with me. As Travis hooked the worm onto Anna’s pole I recalled the excitement my dad had while we rowed out from the shore. Joy spread across Anna’s face as she caught her very first fish. She was so proud, as was I. And then I remembered how even after I caught my bloody fish my dad still encouraged me to try again. Just like I encouraged Anna to try running through the waves again. It was worth the trepidation. My dad didn’t want me to miss out on something greater because of one fish. I didn’t want Anna to miss out on something greater because of one wave.

With all this to say, I should practice what I preach and give fishing another chance. I may have been missing out on something greater all these years.


  1. I love this Jess! Such true words. I want the same experiences for Aiden. And I love your new space!!!

    1. Thanks, Allison! It took me having my own to understand why my dad would want more for me. And thank you for the kind words about my new look! 😊