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The Hardest Story

Before getting started, I must disclose that this is a story I have put off writing for two years now. You see, this is about my dad, my best friend in life, and my hunting partner and fishing buddy. We lost dad in January of 2020, and I’ve put off writing this because I know how hard this is going to be. Nevertheless, my dad deserves it to be written, so here goes.

Bruce Frisch was born in Ashley, ND in August 1939. If you listened to his stubborn father, it was on August 10, though his equally stubborn mother, and birth certificate, said August 9. Dad was far from perfect and had his own struggles in life as well as accomplishments too. Since my columns are about the outdoors, I’ll stick to the hunting and fishing memories.

People often ask me, “When did you start hunting and fishing?” That’s a question that I honestly can’t answer because I’ve fished and been on hunts as long as I can remember. As a kid, I took these adventures that my dad, grandpa, and other family members took me on for granted. You see, I thought that’s how every family operated. More than 5 decades later, I realize how fortunate I was to come from a family where the outdoors was a big part of life and that “taking the kids with” was standard procedure. Having been a fishing guide for over 30 years now, I realize that bringing kids along in the outdoors isn’t always as easy as just the adults going and fully realize how lucky I was. Thanks dad.

As I grew into an adult, my parents moved to western Minnesota and fishing trips with dad became more frequent. Ottertail Lake was dad’s favorite, and we shared many days pulling leeches and nightcrawlers trying to catch the walleyes that inhabit the lake. The fishing was fun, the friendly banter even better, and nothing made for a better meal than a fresh catch of Ottertail walleyes. As a fishing educator, I’m supposed to be all about catch and release and selective harvest, well good luck convincing my dad that the fat 16-incher he just caught would be better served going back in the lake than becoming his next fish dinner!

Fishing with dad, the camaraderie in the boat, and the post-trip fish fry provided great memories. Some of my other fondest memories are of days spent in south central North Dakota chasing whitetail deer and pheasants with dad and various dogs including his beloved Brittany Spaniel, Rusty. We killed bucks and harvested some roosters, and I could also tell a million stories of not-so-successful hunts. Mostly though, I miss the time spent bobbing along gravel roads talking to dad. Some days it was him advising me on my coaching and teaching career, talking about raising kids, or him telling me just how good Brett and his beloved Packers were that fall!

Full disclosure, tears are streaming down my cheeks now and I’m not too proud to admit that. And, quite honestly, I’m not sure how to close this, but let me steal a quote from another fishing mentor of mine, Hall of Fame angler Duane Peterson, who’s told me more than once, in part, that “Fishing has the potential to enrich the quality of lives. It sure did mine!” Mine too Duane. I’m happy that dad got me started in the outdoors like he did. I’ve got him to thank for a better, richer life because of time spent with family and friends outside. I love you dad and I miss our times in the boat and in the field.

Lastly, I saw this the other day on social media and it’s so true in my life: Why is fishing with kids so important to you? Because I was that kid once! Good luck on your next outdoors adventure and remember to include a youngster in that adventure!

Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series.  Visit www.fishingthemidwest.com to see all things Fishing the Midwest.

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