Just one more cast

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fishing pole

By Crystal Conaway

“Just one more cast,” my dad would tell me while still looking out onto whatever lake in Ohio we were fishing on that day.  As I got older I knew that translated into another hour of casting and reeling for him. I would continue to read whatever book or magazine I brought along for the day, enjoying the outdoors and the peacefulness the water brought.

You see, every trip had the same itinerary: Wake in the early morning hours, load truck and boat, drive for 30 minutes while listening to old country music on the radio, all while we ate the egg sandwiches my mom had made for us.

We would get to the lake, get the boat on the water and FISH ALL DAY LONG. The only breaks were for food, bathroom breaks or for him to untangle my spider-webbed line, which happened more often than not.

He would tell me to watch his line as he sorted through a tangled mess of fishing line. He would fix the line and go back to more casting.

Every trip had a full day’s lesson on lures, types of fish and birds and the importance of the land and water around us. By trade, my dad was a Local 186 union carpenter, who had worked on and been in charge of plenty of jobs throughout the state, jobs where land was disrupted and a structure was built.

My dad grew up living off the land, hunting, fishing and growing their own food. One of nine children born in the country, he was always a “man of the land.”  I was taught from day one that you always take care of what was given to you — you don’t litter, and if you borrow something, you give it back in the same or better shape than you received it. This applied to all areas of life, but especially the outdoors.

As life and time moved on, my father passed away, and everyday life had its plans for me. I hadn’t picked up a fishing pole in quite some time. My job here at Jefferson Soil and Water has me outdoors enjoying the beauty our part of Ohio has to offer daily.

In my short time here with the district, I have been a part of so many wonderful programs our office offers. The one that really impacted me this year was our Field Days at Fernwood State Forest.

Our office, along with a group of local partnerships, put on an education event for area fifth graders from local schools along with homeschool groups. The kids brought the rockets they have built to test Newton’s Law. They get to learn about aquatic ecology, fishing, firefighting, beekeeping, recycling and archery.

My station for the week was, as you may have guessed, fishing. There were kids who were very experienced in fishing, and some that had never touched a fishing pole. We taught them how to cast and how to bait the hook, with corn and hot dogs, of course.

The smiles and excitement on their faces when one of their classmates caught a fish was something to behold. Kids that may have never had the opportunity, or maybe even the interest in fishing, gave it their all that week.

As I stood back and watched the overall picture of what was actually going on that week, I saw kids loving the outdoors and learning about conservation while creating memories.

I would chuckle at the last class of every day, as the school buses lined up to take the kids home, inevitably one or two would shout out, hold on, I’m just going to try one more cast. Those words took me back to a simpler time in life that gave me my passion for the outdoors.

Thoughts of a popular country music song came to my mind: “But I guarantee this memory’s a big one, and she thinks we’re just fishing.”

(Crystal Conaway is the agriculture and natural resources technician for the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District in Steubenville, Ohio.)

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