Why Go Fishing
A Thanks To All  Who Made The Time

By Dan Grulke

            I was fortunate growing up in that I had two caring parents, no worries about food, a comfortable house, and our Christmas tree was always packed with presents. But what I found most important of all was my parents, one uncle in particular, and friends whom had the time, patience, and understanding to take me and teach me fishing.

            I started fishing early at the age of five going to Butterfield Lake in New York with my Dad, Uncle Earl, and my brother on family vacations during Memorial weekend. My Dad and Uncle Earl would troll for pike in the mornings and leave my brother and me at the campground with the ladies. I was always at the point of tears when they didn’t take me and I would wait for our bluegill fishing trips in the afternoon—which seemed like an eternity. Mom would always drive us down to the dock to fish at the boat ramp while waiting for the men to come back to get us. When they arrived you couldn’t beat me in a race to get into that boat. We would spend the rest of the day with the men catching bluegills or until the worms were used-up. Afterwards Uncle Earl and Dad would show me how to fillet the bluegills so that Aunt Ellen and Mom could fry them up in a beer batter. I was hooked and the seed was planted.

            During my pre-teen and early teenage years my life seemed to turn to turmoil and uncertainty as with most teenagers. Puberty, moving to a new neighborhood, and going to High School seemed to be more than I could take. I may not have made it if those first fishing seeds hadn’t been planted. I could always look forward to Memorial Day at Butterfield Lake and now I could troll for Pike with the men. No matter how much of an arrogant, egotistical teenager I was, they still took me and loved me. It was at this time in my life that fishing took on a spiritual meaning; no matter how deep and daunting life became I found peace and relaxation fishing.
 Later in my teenage years Dad would take us up to Quail High in Luray and this is when I got my first taste of smallmouth fishing. My first canoe trip was with Red Gambril and I learned the fine art of canoeing, shore lunches, and chasing smallmouth bass. On my first canoe trip I was skunked but by now the seed was planted and instead of getting discouraged--I got determined. For a teenager and throughout my life this would be an important lesson to understand. I began to practice the art of bass fishing on local ponds chasing largemouth and was quite successful.

The success led to the purchasing of more fishing gear and tackle. To some this may seem like a waste of money but that waste of money probably kept me away from more trouble than I was already getting into in life.
By the time I was able to drive, my mentors had already shown me how to canoe and fish for smallmouths and I spent numerous weekends camping in Luray pursuing smallmouth bass. I became very proficient in catching numbers of small bass and was very content doing so. I had become, thanks to my mentors, independent and humble fishermen. On one trip in particular, that would all change.

            For my High School graduation I went fishing with my good friend Dennis. Instead of beach week we drove down to Wise, Virginia to fish the South Fork of the Holsten River with his Uncle Norris. I will never forget the 6-pound plus smallmouth Uncle Norris caught one day. Something in me changed and the my focus of pursuing trophy fish was planted. No longer was I happy with 9’-12” smallmouth bass.

            The independence I learned from canoeing, camping, and fishing on my own was a lesson I needed to learn in order to go to college in Montana; and I learned it through fishing. No longer was I afraid to be on my own (though still supported by school loans, Pell grants, and parent subsidies) and live away from my parents. In Montana I spent numerous hours pursuing trophy trout in Montana waters with a good friend, Holden. Even with all that great trophy trout fishing my thoughts were still haunted by pike fishing and that 6-pound smallie.

            After college graduation I moved back to Virginia, thanks to my caring and understanding and eventual wife Amy. At this point in my life I had been fishing with my best friend Jon Drever for about 10 years. We embarked on numerous memorable trips for both large and smallmouth bass. On the day of his wedding reception dinner, he caught his biggest largemouth bass and I was part of that. In return, for my bachelor party, we spent the day wade fishing and canoeing for smallies in Luray. On that trip to Luray my Dad caught a 4-pound smallmouth and again I was reminded of a desire for pursing a trophy smallie.

            It wasn’t long after that I decided to go to the Dulles Expo Fishing show and my life was forever changed for the better. I saw a booth called Life Outdoors Unlimited with some interesting guides that were having a good time behind the display. They were advertising trophy smallmouth fishing on the Susquehanna River. I booked a trip for Jon Drever and me with the most personable guide there, Dave Kerrigan. That trip was everything they advertised. We caught many trophy smallmouth bass and though I was thoroughly out fished by both Jon and Dave, I find it hard to recall a better trip I was ever on. For the next couple of years Jon and I booked a trip with Dave on the Susky. The trip was a major turning point in my life. It began the process of becoming a teacher of fishing.

            There is no doubt in my mind that without Jon and Dave I would never have become a guide for Life Outdoors Unlimited. They introduced me to Ken Penrod and though I had read his books I had never met the man to this point. They vouched for my character and fishing ability wise and went out on a limb by doing so.  For that and for Ken giving me the chance to guide I am forever grateful and promise to leave no one at the dock again. I was now provided with a method to give back to others what I was so freely given all these years--the opportunity to reach and teach many young and old anglers the art of fishing. I was also given the principle of gratitude--something I did not have a lot of (though I should have) at this point in my life.

            It wasn’t until after the birth of my second child that I realized that fishing and guiding had given me something even more important; the patience, tolerance, and understanding to help raise children. Every guided trip I was fortunate to embark on taught me patience, tolerance, and how to deal with frustration (especially when the fish aren’t biting and you know they are there). These lessons are indispensable when dealing with kids. I also found that I may have taught my clients (though most I call friends now) fishing but they taught me how to raise my children and how to overcome adversity.

The next generation- nothing is more rewarding than being able to teach.

            Every type of aspect of fishing whether salt, surf, fresh, or whatever species I pursue you can bet your last dollar there was a mentor or teacher who taught me how to. They may have thought they took me fishing but they really took me down a road in my life. Whether it be rod building and surf fishing, or musky and walleye fishing, or chasing pike and bluegills, or pursing trophy smallies and blue cats I was really being prepared for life. You see I missed the book or forgot to read ALL I EVER NEEDED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN. I had to read the book take Dan fishing because that is how I learned to live life and that my friends is why I go fishing.

            In gratitude of Dad, Mom, Uncle Earl, Ken Penrod, Dave Kerrigan, Jon Drever, LaMont Roth, John Jenson, Tom Doyle, all the LOU guides, all our sponsors and all the other family and friends  whom had time to teach me fishing; may your live wells always be full.

            To book trips please contact Ken Penrod or any of the other Life Outdoors Unlimited guides. Please check out our web-site www.penrodsguides.com for other articles in LOU Magazine and our weekly fishing report. For questions on this article please contact Dan Grulke at musky13@yahoo.com, the web-site above, or via phone 703-389-3508.