Saturdays were my favorite.

Still to this day I wake up with a sense of adventure, want to explore, only now think of how I will show my own son the ropes. When Dad did not have to work Saturdays at Deckard’s, we would head to Clifty Creek and see what damage we could do on the local smallmouth population.

When you are wading, you walk against the current, cast upstream, and permit the lure to come back or reel it back in depending on the required motion. This mimics the way in which minnows, bugs, tree fruit, or other nourishment flows downstream into otherwise non-angler-inhabited waters. I would slowly piece together these skills from my father, trying to make it look as seamless and humbly ritualistic as he did.

This particular morning, we got up early, packed some grub, parked his 1976 Ranger near the bridge, and were met by the majestic breath that rested on the flowing stream. We were far enough from the water that a comment or two would not have disrupted the peaceful, common day that was about to begin.

The reverence of the land deserves such respect. Dad, the Keeper of the Poles, would carefully extract the necessary gear from under the cream-colored camper shell. I would patiently wait and take whatever else Dad said to pocket or put on. This morning was crisp, but would warm soon enough. He, regardless of temperature or circumstance, always donned a beige fishing vest, jeans, and whatever hat he was wearing out at the time. He rarely wore a shirt underneath that raggedy vest, which made the toughest guy I knew look even tougher.

As we made our way down to the water, delicately because of the slickness of the rocks, a great blue heron lit and was gone. I tucked my jaw back in and tried to hide my smile. I was a pro, of sorts, too, and showing my excitement was not what Dad did. We were men setting out to catch the biggest smallie in all the freshwater streams of North America, after all. Getting into the water was also part of this baptism of sorts. A less-experienced fisherboy would splash and trip, scaring away any potential catch. An experienced young lad like myself eased in with the deft, agile approach of an Olympic diver -- or at least attempted to.

Dad, always ahead perhaps due to rank but also due to a longer stride, would always beat me to the first cast. As soon as I could get my lure off the lowest eyelet of my rod, I was also in the water, casting to Dad’s right and ahead by a few yards. That was just to show that I could.

I surprised myself by the distance and accuracy of where it landed. I can still picture, hear it too. The ripple the water makes before gulping down the lure. Moisture flinging off the line in early light. The whizz and zip of the line as the cast perfectly lands on target. Cork in hand, ready to turn over the bell at the right moment.

A large trunk of a white oak came out from the east side of the bank for about ten feet and then shot up at a forty-five degree angle. Most likely, this image would have stuck in my mind regardless, but what happened next certainly helped. At the exact moment my lure hit the water, something swallowed it and exploded in the air like a bottle rocket. My imagination ran with this one as quickly and as determined as the fish on my hook. I wrangled with the beast for what seemed like forever before his sharp teeth severed the line. No more than ten seconds had passed. Dad was surprised it stayed hooked as long as it did. What was especially impressive was the way the early morning sun hit its spots, causing it to gleam as it arced itself midair.

As soon as the line broke, I looked to Dad and without having to say anything further he responded, “That was a gar. You don’t see those too often. Can’t believe he didn’t break sooner.”

I tucked my jaw in for a second time in as many minutes and we continued on over top of the white oak.

We continued on for an hour or so and came to one of the best fishing holes humble Clifty Creek has to offer. The hole was actually a deep, straight stretch of water, maybe 30 feet across, 60 feet long, with steep but usable rock steps that seemed intentionally carved out for fishermen. There was even a small indentation at the top of each side where a few people could crawl in if they had to. There was also a perfect, natural canopy that although serene, made long casts all the more difficult. This spot was also one of the deepest and I was pretty sure there was not something in there ready to grab both my ankles and pull me under. If you didn’t plant your feet just right, you would surely slip in.

In a previous trek to this same spot, Dad had appropriately dubbed it “Rock Bass Corner” due to the plentiful supply of rock bass to be found. I can also picture Dad showing me how even the little ones that can’t fit the lure into their mouths will follow it back to the top of the water. He was always showing me little tricks like that. He showed me how to cast to the side and flick my wrists quickly so that I wouldn’t get stuck in the trees so often. He had an incentive to teach me the right way to cast, you see. He couldn’t be the Smallmouth Assassin because he was always trying to untangle whatever Crow’s Nest I had just made with my reel or by hooking into a tree branch.

Believe it or not, he never really got too angry. He would just tell me to reel his in or “be careful next time.” There was this one time though when, while he was working on fixing my reel, I cast his that he had just handed to me and got it stuck also. There may have been an uncouth term or two stated at that point, but who wouldn’t in that case?

We were at this spot for probably a half-hour, getting hits every other cast. I had watched little rock bass come to my lure a few dozen times. Dad had had his fill of the little panfish; they are little dudes even at their biggest size. We were ready to set off when a pretty severe thunderstorm came rolling in.

It was one of those that in a matter of 10 minutes, went from gorgeous and sunny with a light breeze to dropping 10 degrees with no wind whatsoever. Dad was with me though. What was there to be afraid of? We got out of the water, put the poles in a safe spot and creaked into the little indentation that I mentioned earlier. As we sat there, his arms around me, I was able to take in both the beauty and ferocity of Mother Nature with only awe and exhilaration. It is a visual and a feeling that I will never forget. Not too much was even said, partially because it was too loud to hear anyway and partially because it was so cool to watch.

When the storm subsided, we got out some lunch. Lunch on the creek was high-class dinin’. The menu was a Firecracker pickled sausage, a package of cheese crackers, and an IBC root beer, all of which can fit into the various pockets on a fishing vest- when packed correctly of course. We ate like kings, but were anxious to get back into the water. Hours later we got out, went home, and passed out watching some tv. I’d give anything to have another day like that with my dad.

Growing up, fishing with Dad wasn’t always as cool as it had been. This had nothing to do with Dad. I started to hang out with my buddies more, chase girls, get jobs of my own, and eventually went to college. One time my roommate got two Oaken Bucket tickets for me that were supposed to be sweet and at the 50-yard line. They were at the 50-yard line alright, but at the next to last row from the top, and geometrically centered amidst the ditsiest group of Boilermaker alum this side of the Wabash.

One lady whose face, neck, and other body parts were not even close to the same age as the rest of her kept going “WOOOH” every time Purdue did something right. Purdue did a lot of things right that game, forgive me for verbalizing that Dad, and we were getting smoked. That lady was seated right behind him. I thought he was gonna snap and say something, but he just looked at me, rolled his eyes, laughed, and said “I think we’ll just watch from home next time.”

He was right. Honestly, anyone who has watched an IU basketball game with Dad knows the art form that is his cussing at the television. It was just at the last game that we watched together, before this COVID stuff went down, that I got the courage to kind of yell at him and say “Oh chill out Dad! There’s still 19:48 seconds left and it’s only first half for Christ’s sakes.” I remember it did seem to chill him out for a play or two, maybe.

I will remember the accidental beer bath I got when we beat Kentucky with a last second 3-pointer and everyone’s drink, including mine, in the room went up with our hands in celebration.

I will remember him taking me to Labor Day camp in Elizabethtown and learning how to play cards, and slam them down in defeat in just the right way.

I will remember taking an entire wintery day to watch "Lonesome Dove" with a big pot of chili on the stove.  "Lonesome Dove," my favorite book and movie because like Dad always said without an iota of hesitation “It’s the best book and the best movie of all time.”

I will remember the surprise and excitement in his voice when I would tell him to pause the game until I get there.

I will remember him telling me that I found a keeper in Carrie.

I will remember the pride in his tone when telling us what a great job we’ve done with Ian.

I will remember him telling Kim, Lindsay, Jason, Carrie, and me that he was “just so goddamned happy right now” while sitting around the fire with tears coming to his eyes.

I will remember him telling me that you can’t trust the liberal media, which he was proud to hear I learned myself despite four years at IU.

I will remember him telling me that “Ian likes havin’ his daddy at home don’t he?”

I will remember when Dad called Lindsay first on the night of his passing and talked for nearly an hour.

I will remember when Dad called me next with Ian and Carrie in the car while he told me about going to Nading’s Pond to get permission for three generations of Harris men to fish whenever they wanted.

I will remember Ian, who doesn’t always say goodbye, told his Grandad Tim “BYE GRANDAD TIM” at least three times that night.

I will remember him eating a bacon sandwich and fried mushrooms for his last meal.

I will remember two days ago watching Great-Grandad Harris play ball with Ian in his yard while I mowed and wishing it could be dad in there too.

I will remember Ian Timothy asking me “When will Grandad Tim come back, Dad?”.

I will remember everything good in my father Timothy Brian Harris, because he was happiest around family, friends, and the great outdoors. He rests now with those that have gone before us and you can be certain we will see him again in God’s good time.