Taking ownership of my boat and fishing around the memories

I miss fishing. That realization hit me like a two by four recently, and has turned my thoughts to getting the boat ready to go to camp this year.

My late husband Jim and I used to spend hours in our boat, fishing and talking and playing cards. We made several major life decisions, confronted difficult problems, and cherished our alone time while fishing from our boat.

The boat, named after our beloved Brittany dog Rosie who eventually died in 2006 of congestive heart failure at age 13, has been one of those difficult issues for me on lots of levels. The first couple of years after Jim died, I took the boat to camp, determined to keep the tradition.

But it proved to be too much for me. Whenever I went out in it, I felt trapped with my memories, and the painful knowledge that Jim and I would never make any more of them together would overwhelm me and push me into uncontrollable sobbing.

We always took whatever dogs we had at the time with us. Rosie had her own fishing rod secured in a rod holder attached to the side of the boat that she watched like a hawk. I swear she could hear the line start to go out before the fleeing hooked fish would cause the reel to make a noise loud enough for her humans to hear.

Rosie claimed all of our rods as her own, and watched them diligently.

When Rosie died and Sassy came to us, Sassy inherited Rosie’s rod. She also learned to keep tabs on it and loved fishing too. Bullet didn’t get to fish with us as long. He basically had two fishing seasons before Jim died and really Jim didn’t fish much his last summer. He didn’t feel well enough.

So the first season after Jim died, I took the boat to camp, put the dogs’ life jackets on them and we piled in to go fishing. Their life jackets seemed necessary to me because there are handles on the backs of them that would make it possible for me to help the dog back in the boat if it decided to take a swim.

Sassy and Bullet were eager for the “normal” routine.

It was a little tricky for me. Usually Jim tended the lines while I drove the boat, but now I had to do it all. The dogs and I weren’t out that long — an hour or two — before I felt too trapped in memories to enjoy the experience.

Bullet (front) and Sassy love the boat.

I tried that for a couple seasons, but then gave up, and the boat stayed home. I still registered it every year. And with each new puppy — Thistle and then her son Quincy — I acquired another dog life jacket just in case I decided to do the boat thing again. But I just haven’t been ready.

Until this year.

This year, I look forward to doing some fishing. I won’t take all four dogs out at once. Quincy at 3 years old has never even been in a boat. Thistle was really young last time she was in one. Four moving dogs, two fishing rods and a boat to maneuver would be a recipe for disaster — especially since Thistle does her own version of dog dock diving — jumping in the water off any surface.

So my two veterans will get to go together and perhaps I will take the others one at a time to teach them the rules of boating.

The boat will be a little different than what Sassy and Bullet might remember. Jim had a full canvas top with clear side curtains and back curtain on the boat to protect us from sun, wind and rain. Over the last few years, it has ripped and deteriorated to the point that it’s time to take it off.

The clear side and back curtains zip into this canvas cover.

Maybe eventually I will get a simpler one without side and back curtains that will fold out of the way, but getting rid of the complicated top will make it easier for me to get in and out of the boat — with or without dogs.

My family has joined me more often at camp over the last couple of years too, and I know they also might enjoy getting out in the boat.

I have fished in freshwater lakes, ponds and streams since I was a very young child. I remember fishing with my biological father when I was 4 and know he probably took me fishing when I was younger than that. I remember spring smelts and spring trout, which tasted so special after a long winter.

I also fished for hours off the dock at my grandparents’ camp in Lincoln while growing up, catching mostly trash fish but enjoying the thrill of it anyway. Pickerel, white perch, sunfish and yellow perch were abundant at the pond where my grandparents, and eventually my mother and stepfather, owned their camps.

Jim loved fishing too so it was a natural activity for us to do together. We made some incredible memories together, pursuing that mutual interest. And I cannot sit here and say it will be easy for me to push past those and get back into that lifelong pursuit.

I know I will feel those same pangs of loss and painful memories but my hope is that now, as a much stronger person than even two years ago, I will be able to move on in my own way. Appreciating the past, remembering it with love and longing for what can never be again, but perhaps find my own pathway back to a favorite hobby I have enjoyed most of my life.

Jim would be sad to know I haven’t fished in a long time. He knew how much I enjoyed it. I don’t mind doing things alone, and I know he will be with me in my heart and memories.

I can tell you I don’t relish my initial outing. I’m bound to feel rusty, and kind of vulnerable in a way I haven’t felt in quite a while as I have learned to live with Jim’s absence.

I have done an excellent job of avoiding facing these particular feelings related to the boat and fishing. It would be easier to wait another year. It’s a big step for me.

But I miss fishing and the only way to cure that ill is to get back on the lake and wet a line. On my own path and in my own style.


Julie Harris

About Julie Harris

As a longtime employee of Bangor Daily News, I have served many roles over the years, but I now have a dream job as Community Editor. I live in Hermon with my four Brittany dogs: Sassy, Bullet, Thistle and Quincy, who keep me busy in various dog sports. I was widowed at age 51 when my husband, Jim, died of pancreatic cancer.