We started the morning out by watching my Dad land a chrome bright twenty-five pound hen. We were all so pumped up that Dad caught that fish! It was a very special moment for me then, and even more so now, because it was the last time I ever salmon fished with my Dad.

My Dad was a busy man. He was always on the go. He was at the office every day and seemed to have meetings almost every night. Needless to say, it was not easy for him to make time to fish, but he did on rare occasions. The author and his Father with a very special salmon.


I remember fishing with my Dad like it was yesterday. If we were going somewhere special to fish, I wouldn’t sleep a wink the night before. I had so many thoughts and ideas flying around in my mind. How many fish were we going to catch? Would I catch the biggest fish? Would I catch more than my Dad? What lure or bait should I use first? It is fun to walk down memory lane every once in a while, reminiscing about the fishing trips that defined my youth. When I think back over my life, some of my earliest recollections are all about fishing with my Dad.

My Dad was a busy man. He was always on the go. He was at the office every day and seemed to have meetings almost every night. Needless to say, it was not easy for him to make time to fish, but he did on rare occasions. The earliest fishing memory I have is sort of with my Dad. What I mean by sort of is, he took me to this small lake, and he was there fishing, but not exactly right next to me. My Dad’s friend owned the small lake. This lake had a lot of trout, bass and pan fish in it. Since I was such a strong swimmer at an early age, my Dad would put me in a life jacket, give me a can of worms along with a cane pole and leave me to it. Meanwhile he and his buddy would go out in this tiny little rowboat and fish together. It has been over forty-five years since he first took me there to fish and I still think of that boat as being tiny. It must have been tiny for a four-year-old to remember it as tiny. Normally over time, everything gets bigger, at least in the wonderful world of fishing!





Those trips to that little lake were all I needed to fall in love with fishing for the rest of my life! What I remember most about those trips was by the time we would have to head home, I would usually have more fish on my stringer than the two of them would have combined on their stringer. My Dad was a loving, yet stern man. He did not accept any temper tantrums from my older sister, Naomi, or me. Those trips were the only place I could actually pitch a fit of any sort and get away with it! When he said, “Phil, it is time to leave.” I would literally freak out and start screaming, “I don’t want to leave!” But instead of blowing his top, he would just pick me up and carry me to the car, kicking and screaming all the way there. My contention is he secretly, deep down inside, wanted to do the same thing I was doing! If I had his busy life, I know I would have been doing it, just for different reasons. My Dad never told me he loved fishing, but you know good and well when you are hanging out with a real stick, an expert at the game, the love is just implied.

As I grew older my Dad took a different job and moved the entire family to Wisconsin. Ah yes, the Midwest, home of the walleye and the walleye fisherman. We lived in the small town of Omro, Wisconsin. We moved into a house located right on the banks of the Fox River. Every spring we had a great run of walleye heading from Lake Winnebago up the Fox River on their way to spawn. My Dad bought us a little 16-foot run-about and we converted it into a walleye catching machine. We would get up at 4:00 a.m., head upriver to our favorite spot, and be back by 6:30 a.m. with our limits. We would both limit, but I would clean the fish alone! It was the price of fishing with my Dad. I can tell you this about filleting fish; it does not take long to get very good and very fast at it, if you are the only one cleaning the fish. After filleting the fish, I would have just enough time to clean myself up, eat breakfast, and get to school on time. For those of you who have eaten walleye before, you know just how delicious it is. Talk about living the dream as a kid! Heck, thanks Dad!





I remember going to the Kewaunee River with my uncle, my Dad, and my grandpa one year. I believe I was in third grade. Way back in those days Wisconsin had a salmon-snagging season. So, in essence it wasn’t fishing as much as it was spot and stalk hunting for these big fish. My Dad would go there once or twice a year to catch salmon. He must have thought I was finally old enough, or prepared enough to take me along on the excursion. Or perhaps, he was tired of my incessant begging. All I remember is not sleeping a wink the night before that trip. I had seen the size of some of the salmon my Dad had brought home from time to time and they were enormous to me. So, it was no wonder why I was as jacked up as a kid on Christmas Eve to go on that trip!


The author with his first salmon that was caught in a Great Lakes tributary. The shot was taken by his grandfather. Note the lucky fishing hat.


I was instructed to stay with my uncle and fish, but he just took off down river leaving me in his wake. Perhaps he didn’t hear the instructions. So, there I was wading in a slow moving river only a foot or two over my boots, searching for salmon on my own. Why I was even wearing those boots is beyond me. Perhaps it was to keep my feet dry. But I have to tell you, had I stayed on the bank the whole day I am pretty sure the water would have filled up my boots anyway!

Fortunately, my uncle was in such a hurry he blew right past two big Chinook laying in a pool of waist deep water. Waist deep water to a third grader that is! As I was cautiously wading my way downstream, I stepped right against what I thought was a rock. That is, until that rock exploded out from under the water and went racing across the river into a shallow inlet. Another big rock went screaming downstream out of that very same hole. Needless to say those rocks turned out to be very large salmon. I am sure you can imagine the excitement I was feeling having those fish shoot out like a pair of missiles right from under me! As it turned out the salmon that ran across the river came to rest in a rather shallow spot, allowing me to sneak up behind the fish and snag it right in the side of the head. After that, all hell broke loose! Once I finally got that salmon under control, she made one last run up into the shallows allowing me to run over to her and literally sit on top of her. Once I was sitting on her I was able to thread my stringer through her mouth and gill plate. Game over! I waded back upstream until I found my Dad and grandpa. There, two fully-grown men standing with jaws wide open in disbelief met me! As it turned out my uncle found the other fish I had kicked out of that hole on his way back up river and was able to land it as well. Those were the only two salmon we ended up with that day. I still have the picture my grandpa took of my Dad, that big salmon, and me.




It was my first salmon ever. The smile on my Dad’s face in that picture still resonates the pride he had in his young son that day. Dad, I love you. As I grew older and became better versed as a fisherman, my Dad and I did more and more trout fishing. He really showed me the ropes on how to move up to the water slowly, as to never spook the fish. He taught me how to read the water, fish the undercuts, and leave no water unfished. The trout streams we fished were barely streams at all. They may be more aptly described as creeks.

As I grew I started to learn that fishing with my Dad was a right of passage. He would teach me certain things; I would master them, and then take them to the next level. Before I knew it I was consistently out-fishing my Dad. If the old adage, practice makes perfect is true, then it was no surprise to my Dad or me why I was top angler of the year at our house. Thanks for encouraging me to get on the water and fish Dad!





After college I moved to Oregon. My love for fishing grew even bigger. My love for trout fishing turned into a steelhead obsession. The salmon fishing was incredible on the west coast too. I broke the fifty-pound barrier landing a fifty-five pound buck on the Trask River. It was as if I was destined to find my calling fishing on the west coast. Now, not only do I run my own guide business, but I also write about my outdoor adventures. My love of fishing is still as strong as ever. But now my love for teaching others how to fish is my major driving force.

As the years flew past and my Dad began to get up there in age, I found myself wanting to take him salmon fishing. I set up a morning trip with my buddy Derek. He took my Dad and me out salmon fishing on Tillamook Bay. We got our lines in the water and started trolling, immediately my rod buried in the rod holder. I quickly grabbed the rod and handed it off to my Dad. We started the morning out by watching my Dad land a chrome bright twenty-five pound hen. We were all so pumped up that Dad caught that fish! It was a very special moment for me then, and even more so now, because it was the last time I ever salmon fished with my Dad. I helped my Dad catch his last salmon, the very same man that took me out to catch my first salmon. The man that taught me everything about fishing, and so much more, out fished me on our final salmon trip! And to be quite honest, I was more than content to see him hold the title of top angler of the year in our family one last time. I miss you Dad. I will always love you. Thanks for everything, your loving son, Phil.






Back to blog

1 comment

Phil, I’m 62 years old. Born in Minnesota, and we moved to Oregon when I was 3. This article could have been about me. Tears running down my face as I read it. Well done sir. Thanks for writing in such a way that I could go back and actually re-live my moments with my Dad.

Rocky T.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.