Appalachia Holidays in Appalachia

When Daddy Took Us Fishing

This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig and the Acorn in 2012.

Fishing in appalachia



Fishing with Our Daddy written by David Templeton

I don’t think I ever thought about it from what would have been Dad’s memory. We never had fished before. I was… oh …., about ten, maybe. My little brother was about seven and Shirley would have been six years old. I think Dorothy was with us … she would have been twelve. Patty, older yet, stayed home.

Dad worked a lot. He had no trained vocation and with no particular job skills he had to provide for a family of seven kids and him and Mom and he had to take whatever work he could find. Where there’s work men go and he had started out in the coal mines of West Virginia as the looming war with Japan and Germany had driven the mines into massive hiring and he worked the mines and took other odd jobs and overtime and he and Mom began growing a family there in McDowell County and he made enough money to provide. He was sick and didn’t go to work the day Bartley No. 2 at Pond Creek blew up and killed 87 men and he left the mines and moved us to East Tennessee where the war had made many more good jobs in defense plants up and down the Holston River.

After the war, there were Levitt towns (as they were often called) in Kingsport, too and they wanted to buy a home of their own and to have as much comfort as possible and feed and clothe their growing brood. So Dad took other work and I remember by 1948, as Kingsport was returning to a post-war economy, him working two other part-time jobs and the defense plant kept on working so we kids didn’t see much of Dad as he often was home only long enough to get six or seven hours sleep and go back to work. And we loved our Daddy and some late summer evenings Mom would let us go up the street and wait under a street light to see Daddy coming home, walking because he had no car, and we would jump up and down when he came into view and when he got to us we would cling to his hands or his britchey legs and hang onto him all the way home. It’s about all we saw of him was him coming home in those jar fly evenings to rest a while and sleep some and go back out.

So there seldom was a leisure time for Dad. There seldom was a time when Dad could play with us or take us places on Sunday drives and most certainly there were no family vacations. But, sometimes … sometimes Dad did have a car; usually not for long but when he had a car he and Mom would take us for a drive and Mom would make some sandwiches and we would stop at a shaded roadside table and have a picnic and play in the streams of mountain waters running alongside the road and try to catch the little fishes and the crawdads darting away from our jabbing hands. But we didn’t get to fish because Dad didn’t have any fishing poles and stuff and for sure not enough for each of us.

But, onetime … and it must have been a pleasureful time because it is among my best feeling memories … one time Dad went to the store and bought some of those little fishing kits you could buy back then; they had string, and a float or cork bobber and a hook and you would cut a pole and tie the string on the end of it and set the cork and you’d have a fishing pole. And you could buy a few extra hooks and split shots and corks because the first thing you did was get the line tangled in a low hanging limb or get your hook snagged on the bottom of the creek, on a rock ledge and Dad would have to jerk it loose and usually you’d lose the hook and the cork and he’d have to rig up another fishing line of the pole and we’d try again, so it always took extra hooks and split shots and corks and the rigging alone kept Dad busy with set-ups. And, he would have dug a can of fishing worms, a plenty for the time.

This one time he also bought some of those little cans of potted meat and some little cans of Vienna sausages and a loaf of bread and we could enjoy some real tasty picnic food while we fished but it usually meant that Dad would have to help us make us a sandwich or help us open the can of potted meat and spread it on our bread with his… what he called his “fishing knife” and it was like one of those knives we called a Boy Scout knife and it had… oh, maybe a can opener blade and a big blade and a little blade and a spoon and a fork-like part, too. Kind of like those Swiss Army knives you see nowadays.

I’m sure as Dad worked at his bread-wrapping machine at the Dixie Maid bakery there in Kingsport, he would think about his family and us and regret how precious little time he had with us and he would fancy what he might do to spend some good times with us and he determined to take us fishing as soon as he had a day off and in his mind at his machine he could picture the fishing trip, a sunny day, four or five of us kids, fishing poles all set on the bank and propped up on forked sticks and each kid sitting quietly by their pole waiting patiently for a bite and kids feasting on lunchmeat sandwiches and him fishing, too; and a string of good-sized punkin-seed sunfish that Mom would admire when we got home and make us a big supper of fried sunfish and fried cornbread. Quiet… peaceful… bucolic… In his day dream.

In reality, there on that creek bank, it went different once the fishing poles were made up and a worm slid onto the hook and the bobber set and the line out in the water and the pole resting on the fork. It went different very quickly, as each of us would mistake any movement of the bobber as a bite and jerk the pole and jerk the line all the way out and into the leafy tree limb and Dad would have to get the fishing line freed from the tree limb and lose the worm and the hook and sinker and he would have to rig it up again with another hook and split shot and bobber and a fresh worm and help get the line back out in the water and by then two more of us would have tangled lines or an worm-empty hooks and from then on all Dad would get done would be that of servicing everyone’s fishing set-up or getting a line loose or taking a Horney head off the hook and explaining to us that it was not a good fish to keep, and mosquito bites, and dropped vy-eenies, and Johnny has to pee, and all this before a half hour had passed and Dad’s patience became exasperation and rather than order us to GET IN THE CAR!! He would finally gently say, “Kids, this isn’t a very good fishing hole. Let’s get everything in the car and drive on up the road a piece and see if we can find a better place to fish”. And, we be happy to get in the car because “fishing must not be all it’s cracked up to be” and Dad would drive around a while and finally say, “Kids, let’s just go on back home for now and we’ll stop at the Piggly-Wiggly and get some salt Cod and we’ll ask Mommie to make us some fish and cornbread and some fried potatoes and we’ll try fishing some other time.”

And, we were all happy and we had had a good day with our Daddy and he was with us and we loved him all the more. And it became happy memory, one that I recollect and think about when my grandkids want me to take them fishing. I sure miss my father and his tender heart and the patience that God gave him before he took up family fishing.


I hope you enjoyed David’s post as much as I did! It reminded me of the times I begged Pap to let me go fishing with him and the boys…and then I begged him to take me home before they were finished fishing because I was bored. I love David’s use of the words britchey legs. Using the word britches for pants is beyond common in Appalachia.



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  • Reply
    June 18, 2016 at 5:39 am

    Good story. Fishing was a big part of our life growing up, Dad love to fish the creeks, instead of the River, he said the fish tasted better, in a running creek than a river.. We as kids got in trouble several times for staying to long on the creeks around home.. I remember one time I went to visit a Boy who lived couple miles away, he had a creek behind his house, I got up early one morning walked through the woods and pastures to his house to go fishing, the next thing I knew Dad was driving across the pasture and hollering my name, he had come home from work and the time had just flew by, I didn’t realize it was that late, it kinda shook him up a little I think..

  • Reply
    Harry Fristoe
    June 17, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    As a kid growing up in a small town our first fishing trip with my Dad was on a city bus! We did not have a car so we gathered up our cane poles and people on the bus put their arms out and held our poles while we boarded the bus. We got off a couple of blocks from a bayou and walked there from the bus. Remember catching my first bream on that outing. I am 70 years old now and still fish thanks to my Dad.

  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    June 16, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    Such a poignant story, perked a few memories from my own brain bank. I particularly like the part about his Dad’s daydreams of a calm and quiet fishing day, when with little ones around, they rarely were, but precious just the same.
    I remember our Dad made us bait our own cane pole and take the fish off the hook if we caught one. If we didn’t want to do that, he said we didn’t really want to fish then. And I remember taking a Nancy Drew mystery book along, cause reading was the only way to get me to be still and quiet for a bit.
    Praying everyone is having a blessed week.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    June 16, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    Loved this post by David Templeton! The memories he has are also familiar to me…
    It took more time rigging, worming, adjusting floats and to cast again landing on the spot where I felt would be the “whale” ! Then just as the water rings from the bobber would settle, I would look just in time to see my float/bobber disappear under the water! I would jerk it so hard, sometimes falling backwards! Dad telling me at the same time…”honey, you’re gonna pull that fish inside out!” I did, finally, thru the years learn to just set the hook, for the memory stayed fixed in my head of a bream turned inside out like a glove! Ewwwww!
    Thanks Tipper
    and David….

  • Reply
    Janis Sullivan (Jan)
    June 16, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Oh what memories. We always went cane pole fishing at the creek which really was part of the Obed River in Tennessee. If you follow I-40 from Crossville to Memphis you cross the Obed River 10 times. We always went to the five fingers rock because it had five fingers. We fished with worms, tadpoles, grasshoppers; anything we could find. We mainly caught catfish because the little Obed was slow there, but after a big rain we could get brim. Nobody ever talks about brim anymore. We loved making our own snacks- vy-eenies, sardines, and always Premium crackers. Cool water tasted so good. Nobody had to be with 8-12 years old then. We could not take so many vy-eenies because they were for daddy’s lunch. Sometimes before we had to stop fishing before supper, daddy would come down with us. I know now he was dog tired, but he put us first. I sure miss my dad, but what memories I have.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 16, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    My daddy never took me fishing that I can remember. He never hunted either. He knew how to dress and clean all manner of fish and game but had no interest in their procurement. Daddy was a farmer, carpenter and woodsman. Those pursuits coupled with “public” work occupied all his time.
    His last job was on maintenance crew in the GSMNP. He loved that job because it was 100% outdoors. Sometimes his crew “had” to spend weeks at Hazel Creek or Cataloochee. They had to hike in and out and carry their tools and supplies. Going home every night wasn’t advantageous so they spent the week. Imagine that! Camping in the wilderness for a week and getting paid for it. Plus per diem pay.
    They cleaned and maintained trails and campsites. They cleaned off the all the old graveyards that are inside the park boundaries on the North Carolina side. They maintained the backcountry roads and bridges. It was hard work but that’s all Daddy knew.
    Daddy was also the camp cook. So after a day’s work, while the other men were off fishing or sitting around telling lies, he was preparing their grub. He didn’t get paid extra for that duty but he enjoyed it. I am not sure the fishermen had to stick strictly to the park rules because the rangers were in the same boat so to speak. Besides that, there were no limits for cleaning and cooking trout so Daddy was in the clear anyway.
    Daddy was on one of these camping trips at Hazel Creek in late April of 1974 when he had a heart attack. But for the valiant efforts of his co-workers he would have died on the spot. They did CPR and brought him back. They had to repeat the procedure more than once as they took him by barge across Fontana Lake to an ambulance on the other side. No helicopters in those days. Daddy survived the long drive to Swain County hospital where he stayed until May 4th. He was scheduled to go home the next day. Mommy had gone to see him early that morning but hadn’t stayed long because he was going home tomorrow. On her way home the police stopped them and told them they needed to go back to the hospital. Daddy hadn’t waited until tomorrow, he went home today. At 10:45 AM he went home forever.

  • Reply
    June 16, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    I been listening to the radio today while Donna Lynn played some songs by Paul and Pap. I just love “Angles of Mercy” cause they sing slow and you can understand every word…Ken

  • Reply
    June 16, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    My power went off just as I was about to post, so now I’ll start again.
    I really enjoyed David’s memories of when he was a kid. It was his comment when I wrote about Fly Fishing in White Water several years ago that I remember most.
    David’s story made me recall a memory of my daddy taking his boys fishing over at the Nantahala River. He always took the time. One evening, after supper and a short rest, he took us brothers a fishing. After he let us out at different places, he went on up the river to fish also. He had been in the river and caught several nice Rainbows, and just as he was about to move someplace else, a Florida man come by. He told daddy he couldn’t catch any because of those pesky mosquitoes. Daddy told him to just reach in his fishbag and rub some of that stuff all over his face and neck. (Daddy had mastered with a straight face, that mountain way to make you belive a fib.) Anyway, about an hour later, me and one of my brothers had come out of the water and was walking along the highway. Here came that Man and he was flyin’, and we could tell he was mad. He asked us if we had seen a d— little fellow with an old Stetsen hat. We assured him we hadn’t seen him,
    but we knew he had done met our daddy…Ken

  • Reply
    June 16, 2016 at 11:37 am

    What a beautifully written memory. I enjoyed reading it a lot.

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    June 16, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Such a sweet post!! My mother would be 100 yrs old if she was still living, but I have wonderful memories of her telling about fishing in the little creek behind their house with her sisters and catching “horney head fish.” (She had six sisters and four brothers.) She told me that type of fish had little horns on its head and was in the creeks there in MS. I haven’t heard that word in probably 30 or more years when she told me the story. Never saw one. I don’t think I’ve heard the word “britches” in over 20 years but I remember it being used back at my grandparents and also by my daddy. I know my mother liked those little Vy-eenies, and we did have them in Illinois where I grew up. I was a “daddy’s girl” when I was little. I went with him fishing but he was more dedicated to his bird hunting for pheasant, quail, and squirrel. I never carried a gun but I followed him through many woods and across a lot of little streams as he hunted for squirrels. My mother fried up the best eating squirrels, gravy and biscuits that I have ever tasted. Makes my mouth water just to think about it. My husband is not a hunter, as he delighted in fishing and took our children fishing from the time they were toddlers. They are well-versed fishermen now and we remember fondly as the sun was sitting them saying “just one more cast Dad.”

  • Reply
    June 16, 2016 at 11:04 am

    My daughter and I fished a lot, especially when we lived in Arizona. She began early. The first time she caught a fish she got excited, fell in the creek and got her diaper wet. She wasn’t quite two then.

  • Reply
    June 16, 2016 at 9:39 am

    David’s story reminded me of my dad, always working and never having time to do fun things with his kids. We always had a creek right in the front or back yard of every house we lived in. One had a walk bridge to the road. That is where I spent any spare time with a fishing pole rigged from an empty thread spool and a safety pin. If the water was moving, I could stare at it and imagine I was flying to far away places I never expected to see. When I got older, I moved to one of those “far away places” that was only four hours from there and another hour or two to six of Kentucky’s largest lakes. Dad retired and moved close by and I was able to take HIM fishing.
    I loved the way David spelled vy-eenie. Finally…someone knows how to pronounce it correctly!

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    June 16, 2016 at 9:35 am

    This story brought a tear to my eye,remembering daddy taking me and my brother fishing and squirrel hunting.He was so busy pastoring churches and working.I appreciate him even more for squeezing in time for us.We too caught those beautiful colored punkin-seeds on the east fork of the little sandy river.I could take you to the exact spot 60 some years later.
    Vy-eenies. Some men I know had went way up north for work,.They went into a store and asked for vy-eenies.The clerk didn’t know what they were talking about.He finally figured it out and they got their vy-eenies. LG

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 16, 2016 at 8:16 am

    David’s memories are powerful ones, and they take me longingly back to my boyhood and fishing. However, angling loomed wonderfully large in my yester-youth rather than being just an unfolding snafu of the sort this delightful piece offers. My earliest of all memories involves catching a bream beneath the “High Bridge” (now called the Sandlin Bridge, I believe) over the Little Tennessee River arm of Fontana. There were lots of memorable trout fishing trips with Daddy, some of them involving overnight stays at backcountry campsites in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a camping trip with another family on Fontana Lake where I caught a sizeable catfish when I was only six years old, and I could still today take you to the spot on Deep Creek up near the Bryson Place where I caught my first trout on a fly.
    Daddy and to a lesser extent Grandpa Joe and an old river rat named Al Dorsey, with Momma offering willing and tolerant support, opened up a wonderful world before me through fishing. I have to reckon it was and remains one of the finest gifts my parents gave me, and certainly the sport has figured immensely in my life. As Father’s Day approaches, I look back with great fondness to all Daddy did to tolerate my endless questions, forgive my periodic raids on his supply of trout flies, endure my half ruining his fishing outings just so I could tag along, and in general support my angling addiction. I dedicated my book on fly fishing in the Smokies to him and his look of joy when I handed him a copy remains firmly locked away in the vaults of my mind, as does his periodic comment to the effect “I’ll never figure out how I raised a son who goes hunting and fishing all the time and manages to make money out of it.”
    Thanks to you Tipper, and to David, for bringing some wonderful memories bubbling up this morning.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    eva nell mull wike, PhD
    June 16, 2016 at 8:15 am

    Oh my GOSH! David’s post was so ‘familiar’ to me. The only difference was my family of ELEVEN children and our Lake was Chatuge in Clay County, NC!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    June 16, 2016 at 8:06 am

    Lovely writing! And I’ll bet the sight of his children jumping up and down under that streetlight really lightened this good man’s step.

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