Granddaughter Cherished Homemade Cane Pole

A reader shares the story of her grandfather teaching her to fish and presenting her with a homemade cane pole he made specifically for her.

Handmade cane pole from grandpa

An illustration of a grandfather handing a cane pole to his granddaughters in front of his old pickup truck.

Illustration by Lyn Wellsand

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One day in 1947, my Grandpa Hudson showed up at our house in his old truck and asked to take my sister and me fishing. Marilyn was 5 at the time, and I was 6; he wanted to teach us how to fish. So, we piled into Grandpa’s truck and headed to his favorite spot.

Once there, Grandpa sat down between us and showed us how to bait our fishing poles and throw our lines into the water, all the while explaining the process of fishing. He got my cane pole all set up, then went to work on Marilyn’s. In no time, my bobber started to bounce, and then disappeared.

I pulled on the pole with every ounce of my being, and my line, fish and all, went flying over my head. I stood up, jumping and yelling, “I caught a fish, Grandpa!” He took the fish off the hook and put it on a stringer, then placed it in the lake. I started hollering, thinking he was throwing my fish back. I didn’t understand that a fish couldn’t live out of water, but Grandpa explained it while he put a new worm on my hook.

When Marilyn caught her first fish, she was nowhere as excited as I had been.

Grandpa kept us fishing until noon, then we packed up and left. Daddy was home when we got there, so he helped Grandpa clean our catch, then Mama prepared us a supper of fried fish.

After we ate, Grandpa took us girls out to his truck and gave us the cane poles we had used earlier that day. Grandpa was a whittler, and he had made those poles just for us. I was so proud of that pole.

Over the years, I did a lot of fishing with that old cane pole. In fact, I still had it and enjoyed using it when I got married in 1965. Years later, while we were fishing one day, my husband was using my cane pole and not having any luck. Hot and frustrated, he threw my pole down, and a second later it was floating in the water. I tried to save it, but it was no use. My cane pole was gone, and I lost a little bit of Grandpa Hudson that day. I’ll never lose the memories of him teaching me to fish, though, or of spending time with him, or of our wonderful fish fries.

Here’s my mom’s famous recipe.

Mom’s Fried Fish

1. Clean the fish and place in ice cold water with some kosher salt. Put in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

2. Mix together flour, salt, pepper and paprika. Put it in a zipper-seal plastic bag.

3. Place about 1 cup peanut oil in preheated cast-iron skillet and let oil get good and hot.

4. Remove a couple pieces of fish from water and place in flour mixture. Seal bag and shake until fish are coated thoroughly. Remove fish from bag and place in skillet of hot oil.

5. Fry until browned on one side, then turn and brown opposite side. Remove fish from skillet and place in 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Keep warm in a 250-degree oven while frying remaining batches of fish.

Karen
York, Nebraska

Read more outdoor memories in Stories of Hunting and Fishing.