Our Family Fishing Derby

  • Downhome Magazine
  • Posted: Aug 25, 2009 10:05 AM
(l-r) Damien Taylor, Michelle (Mick) Pretty, Frank Pretty

By Heather Taylor-Benoit

Labour Day weekend is a very special time for my family. You see, on September 4, 1998 (Labour Day), we lost our mom to a sudden heart attack. She was 73. Mom was a wonderful woman who loved a good laugh and loved life. But, more than anything else, she loved to trout.

When Dad retired, my parents spent six months of the year at their cabin in Placentia Junction. Much of that time Mom spent standing at the edge of a pond in her long rubbers with a fishing pole in her hand. Over the years she caught many beautiful mud trout.

After Mom died, my sister Michelle (Mickey) and my brother Damien talked about having a fishing derby every Labour Day weekend in Mom's memory. They ran it past Dad and he loved the idea. So Dad drew up a list of "rules" and made a wooden measuring board for the trout. Mickey asked for donations from various businesses (for participant prizes). And Damien had a wooden plaque made, on which the winners' names would be etched each year. Thus, the annual "Mary Taylor Memorial Fishing Derby" took off.

The first year there were 14 participants. Last year there were 90. Each person pays $10 to take part. At the end of the weekend no one goes home empty-handed. If you aren't lucky enough to win one of the top four cash prizes, you at least walk away with a T-shirt, hat, case of beer, or some other prize.

Every year we looked forward to Labour Day weekend. It was especially important to Dad as a time to honour Mom's memory and have all the family together.

And when our family gets together, we know how to have a good time. The competition is intense; everyone tries to find that special fishing hole that's going to give up the "big one."

The competition was always especially thick between Mickey and Damien. For years neither one had been lucky enough to have their name engraved on the plaque as the top winner. Dad loved to get the two of them going. He'd tell Mickey, with a grin on his face, "I think Damien is going to land the big one this year."

Mickey would respond, "Oh, yeah? We'll see about that." Then she'd grab her fishing pole and head out the door. Then Dad would say to Damien, "I think Mick's name is going on the plaque this year." And Damien would grab his pole and head out the door. Sometimes he'd be gone for hours, moving from pond to pond. Often he would return after dark with an empty basket. Before the break of day the next morning, Damien and Mick would be trying to beat each other out through the door, poles in hand.

Then last year, on January 25, we lost our dad. Like Mom, he was blessed by being taken suddenly with a heart attack; he was 83. Our dad was a special man. He always had a story to tell, and a smile for everyone - and, of course, he was a prankster. Last Labour Day weekend we changed the title on the plaque to "The Mary and Jack Taylor Memorial Fishing Derby."

Lo and behold, Damien landed the "big one" and got his name on the plaque. What a moment it was when Mickey tallied up the results and told him he had the biggest trout. He cried like a baby. It was a special moment. I know Mom and Dad had to be smiling down on him. So, in honour of Damien's big win, I wrote a poem for him. Even though he'd won, I thought I'd put a bit of a twist on it just for fun.

Dad's Last Prank

Well, Labour Day is here again and
the derby's on the go.
Mickey wants the "big one," but
Damien - he says "No."
He's gonna walk his legs off till he
finds that fishing hole
that's gonna give up the "big one"
and land it on his pole.

So, for miles and miles he travelled
over marsh and hills and vale.
Tried Second Pond and Burns Pond
and Healy's on the way.
But, the fish they weren't a bitin'
seems his luck had all run out.
Yet he vowed that he would not go
back until he had that trout.

So, on and on he soldiered until he
couldn't go on no more.
The flies, they had him eat to death,
and his feet were mighty sore.
He'd set out in the morning and fished
and walked all day.
But now it's almost 9 o'clock with
darkness on its way.

He sat on a rock on the edge of a
pond and down he laid his pole.
He hung his head in sadness.
He felt he'd lost his soul.
When, all of a sudden, the winds
came up and the waters they
did churn.
A light shone down from the heavens
above and in his eyes did burn.

Then Damien heard a voice from
above that brought him to his knees.
And tears of joy welled in his eyes.
He couldn't hardly see.
Damien felt so happy. How could
he be sad?
For the man from above who was
speaking to him, it was his
dear old dad.

"Son," he said, "don't give up.
You'll have that trout tonight.
Just cast your line in the water.
I'll be your guiding light.
There's a trout in this pond. It's two
foot long, with your name upon its head.
Now, pick up your pole. God love ya'
son." And that was all he said.

So, Damien grabbed his fishing pole
and stood at the edge of the pond.
He looked across the water. It had
become quite calm.
Down from the sky came a beam of
light that landed straight ahead.
And Damien cast his line out
directly to where it led.

And then, out of the water, the trout it
seemed to soar.
It grabbed the fly in its mouth and
turned away from shore.
But Damien knew it was his, for Dad
wouldn't let him down.
He played it well and got it in, then
headed back for home.

It took him three long hours, but he
didn't mind the walk.
Even though he was eaten alive by
flies and beat up from the falls.
He finally reached the cabin with a
big smile on his face.
"Quick! Someone get the measuring
board. I think I've got first place."

So, Frank put the board on the table
and measured from tail to head.
The trout was exactly two foot long,
just like dear Dad had said.
Damien danced and screamed and
cried. He couldn't believe his eyes.
He yelled, "I've finally done it, boys.
I've finally won first prize."

But, the smile disappeared in the
blink of an eye when Frank
delivered the blow.
He put his arm around Damien and
said, "There's something you
should know.
Mick went across the road today. She
was gone only a minute or two.
She caught a trout. It was bigger than yours.
For it was two foot two."

Lousia Decker

This is an excellent story ... I'd pay the ten dollars just to get the Hat & T-Shirt(lol). My mother & father are both passed away & I miss them so much, it is so nice to do something in memory of the ones you loved so much. Keep it up !!

Colleen Taylor-Gosse

This story so warms my heart. I am one of the Taylor sisters who is currently living in Tampa, Florida. I will miss the fishing derby this year.... first time ever. I wish all my family and friends participating in the derby the best of luck. This is your year Mick....I can feel it (again)! - Love your sister, Colleen.