Scott Underwood column:A man, his sons and pure fishing magic

As the boat slowed and approached the dock, he stood a little unsteadily and opened his arms wide.

"Whoa!" He shouted. "Whoa! Whoa!"

My father was 66 years old, but he was still full of youthful energy.

From all the "Wow! I knew he had caught a big fish, he opened his arms and had a big smile on his face.

That's what happens when you catch a trophy fish.

As an example, my brother Doug had nothing to say in the boat until he got a barge ashore. Then he suddenly gushes about how nice the weather is, how beautiful the woods are, and how great it is to be fishing with you in the middle of nowhere.

Dad, a biology teacher and farmer, loved nature, loved to fish, and loved the intimate experience of spending a week on the lake with our fishing team at a remote outpost.

To continue Uncle Lester's legacy, Dad introduced my three brothers and me to the magic of fly fishing in Canada.

On his first trip to Manitoba with Lester and a few of his friends in 1985, he took two of us, Mark and Doug, with him. The next year, he took Dave and me again, fishing with Lester and his son at Skinner Lake, Ontario.

Since then, our group has been flying to a remote outpost in Ontario every three springs or so. We went to Skinner several times in a row; it was Uncle Lester's favorite.

Dad loved Skinner, too. I remember him catching a northern pike in a river that flowed into the lake, and then his exaggerated false modesty.

"Sorry, Scott," he said with a mischievous grin. "I wanted to save some of the big ones for you, but for some reason I couldn't let them off my line."

Some of my most vivid memories of Dad come from our trip to Canada.

Like the day we were fishing together, just the two of us, and he began a detailed, hour-long explanation of the life cycle of the gypsy moth as it landed on the water around us.

I wouldn't admit it in high school, but Dad was my favorite teacher. He could make any conversation about living things interesting, even the seemingly insignificant caddisfly.

Another time fishing with my dad, a barbed hook got stuck in his finger. He explained that the hook wouldn't pull out from its original direction, and he gritted his teeth and shoved the hook through the flesh of his finger.

I took the sharp-nosed pliers in my trembling hand and cut the hook from under the barb so he could pull it out of his finger. He wiped away the blood with a handkerchief, wrapped a Band-Aid around his finger, and went back to fishing.

In 2001, the day before he arrived, "Wow! I went fishing with my dad at the Skinner dock. It was a lazy day of warm sunshine, breezes and slow fishing.

In the afternoon we idled by a sturdy beaver shack, where he climbed up and laid down for a nap, one knee up, hands clasped behind his head, and a fishing hat dangling over his face.

I circled the area slowly in the boat, casting and re-casting, retrieving it, and then saw it lying on the small roof while an agitated beaver hovered in the water 20 yards away.

I suddenly realized that this might be the last time I would fish with my dad, who suffered from pulmonary fibrosis and was prone to shortness of breath.

The following spring, on May 28, he passed away.

We buried him in a small cemetery in the lush green countryside, close to our home in rural north Manchester. His tombstone bears the image of his beloved Angus cattle on the farm.

As I was writing this op-ed, it occurred to me that the back of my father's headstone is blank, just waiting for the image of him and his sons fishing in Canada.

It could also be him standing in a boat with his arms spread wide.

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