Tied to tradition: Lessons from grandfather, uncles stay with you forever

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jul. 12, 2019 2:00 am

It seemed excessive, wrapping the fishing line around itself seven times before pulling it taut.

Isn't five times good enough? Wouldn't six work? Why did it have to be seven?

Because that's how my grandfather did it, and it's how he wanted it done.

When you stand about thigh high and marvel at the rods, reels and gear he had accumulated stored in his garage, you do what he says in hopes you can someday land the kind of largemouth bass that might rival the one he had hanging on the living room wall.

That prize was from one of the fishing trips Mike Connell Sr. made to Branson, Mo., an annual excursion with a group of guys that took place well into his 60s. Throat cancer cost my grandfather his larynx and limited his ability to spend time in the summer heat and humidity, but it didn't diminish his passion for the sport or his wealth of knowledge.

He spread that wealth through subtle suggestions and lessons, some as simple as learning to tie a hook.

Everybody has their own way of doing and there is no right or wrong except for this -- if the knot comes loose and you lose the hook, you've done it wrong.

All other ways are right, or so you might think.

There was only one way that was correct in my grandfather's eyes. It was a cinch knot wrapped seven times.

Here's what you do: Slip the line through the eye of the hook, cross it over, pull it through the loop and tug it tight. There's your base.

Remember to give yourself plenty of slack because creating the cinch takes a little bit of line.

If you pull it taut too close to the end of line, you won't have enough left to make a secure knot.

Now take the end of the line and wrap it around itself seven times before pulling it back through the loop and tugging it hard.

It will cinch the line together, forming a knot that ensures you won't lose the hook no matter how big or strong fish you land might be.

That's how my grandfather taught me to tie hooks more than 35 years ago. It's the way I still tie hooks today, and each and every time I think of him and the wisdom he gave me.

Outdoorsmen like to talk about hunting heritage and a lifestyle passed from one generation to the next.

My grandfather did that for myself, my cousins and those still to come. He isn't alone in that regard. I'm blessed to have had similar influences on both sides of my family lineage. The uncles I grew up hunting and fishing with -- ones with strong, sassy and stubborn personalities like Charles and Bill Schuckman -- left a thumbprint on everything I do.

No one has had a bigger influence in that regard than my father, Jerry.

I learned many of the nuances of hunting and fishing from my grandfather and my uncles. I learned how to do everything right from my father. He taught me to respect what others had to say and to be mindful and attentive when they offered instruction or advice.

He could have taught me the same tricks and techniques because he knew them, too. But he taught me something more meaningful.

He showed me how to be a part of a family.

I remember my grandfather each time I tie a hook. I think about Uncle Charles each time I smoke a cigar or pet a beagle. I laugh about Uncle Bill when I have trouble sleeping at deer camp and hear his chuckles in the night.

And I see how darn near every lesson my dad taught me along the way pays off every day.

Tying a hook on a line might be a simple task, but when you do it the way you were taught -- looping it seven times, not one less nor one more -- you're placing unquestioned value on family tradition.