All the romance of trout fishing exists in the mind of the angler and is in no way shared by the fish. ~Harold F. Blaisdel
A few Sunday’s ago was mother’s day and that weekend was the 23rd Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby. As tradition dictates, every year I take Kyle. Usually my cousin Casey, Kyle’s godfather, is present but this year he is waiting for his newest arrival to the family, little Owen Olczak. The Fishing Derby is a really a nice event which supplies memories for a lift time.
The activities always start on Friday evening with a bonfire, food, kids running around playing and everyone setting up their tents for a night of sleeping under the stars. All participants and onlookers bring a covered dish and the derby supplies the burgers, drinks, hot dogs, beer, and breakfast. In addition to getting together to see everyone, shooting the breeze, and the anticipation of the following day, there is so much more going on. An old friend of the family, makes popcorn in an iron kettle on the open flames. The smell is absolutely amazing, it stops every child and adult in their tracks and sets them on a new course of action straight for the popping sound, while a few guys who always show up with guitars entertain the crowd. Usually, Friday night is when the purchase of your very own Fishing Derby T-shirt takes place, not only to wear the next day, but also to sport for future events, a sort of trophy piece showing the longevity of one’s dedication.
The next morning starts with breakfast at 7:00 am. This year, as with most years we had pancakes, french toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, and hash browns all made on an open flame in cast iron skillets. Then there is also the fruit salad, donuts and all the covered dishes, veggies and dips delivered the previous night or spontaneously appeared that morning. There is certainly never a shortage of food and no one ever goes hungry. Sometime between waking up, eating, and continuing the previous night’s conversation, the kids set out their chairs, strategically placing them around the pond, guessing where the ideal spot would be to catch the largest trout to take home the trophy.
The official start of the derby is at 9:00 am and includes a few Planinsek’s reviewing the rules, one being the maximum age to participate, which is sixteen years. They give the same horror story of hooking someone’s nose while casting. With so many children and adults around a small pond, and most of the kids not having the best aim, it’s good get a perspective on the dangers of fishing. I always thought that story was an urban legend but alas Lisa (Planinsek) Singer confirmed it for me this year and it’s all true. I guess about 30 years ago one of the Planinsek’s went to cast his line, and while he jerked it back to front, he managed to hook a nose. The story takes a turn involving the emergency room for the removal or the hook, bringing us to the current day story. Good learning lesson for anyone, experienced or novice. Then we say a prayer before the sound of the buggle calls everyone to frantically cast their lines. The Fishing Derby has officially begun!
The Fishing Derby is won by catching the biggest trout. The adults can help the children cast, especially since there are so many lines entering the water all at once, it becomes a bit of a spider web. But all children in order to qualify for the contest need to reel in the fish themselves, and naturally an adult or older child assists with a net, so as to not loose a kid in the water. This year, two kids fall in, but exited the water as fast as they entered. The 2012 winner was Lexie Planinsek who caught a 22 inch trout. There is also a prize for the largest non trout catch, which was an 18 inch big mouth bass. The first year they held this event Casey, becoming a legend on the hill. My brother and cousins used to fish the event every year and now Kyle is participating in the tradition. I am so glad to be sharing this experience with him and everyone. There is not a better group of people who gather together that weekend.
Throughout the day Mick gives hayrides and the kids always manage to concoct a mean game of dodge ball or two. The kids aren’t required to fish the entire time, in fact they tend to get board of fishing after an hour or two. The official derby starts at 9:00 am and goes till 5:00 pm. You are allowed to keep three fish or you can toss them back and continue catching till you are in the running for the prize trophy. One kid caught forty fish! And what is surprising, he didn’t win! Imagine his odds? Kyle caught three trout and a few crappy, keeping the trout and tossing the crappy back. Dad and Kyle cleaned his earned catch on Saturday night and fried them up on Sunday morning. He helped mom bread and fry the fish and was so excited over his contribution. Yes, I know I’ve mentioned it a time or two, but we love fried fish for Sunday morning breakfast, especially fresh fish. It has become a tradition in our family and when I lived in Pittsburgh for a brief period of time, that was something I missed.
Throughout the day, they sell pull tickets to win various prizes, 50/50 tickets, and of course tickets to the kids table. Besides catching the largest trout, the next big excitement includes winning a prize off of the kids table. As the day winds down and darkness approaches, everyone gathers under the pavilion where there is literally at least three picnic tables packed full of toys, trinketries, and stuff. What happens is either the adults and many children, buy a ticket and put the child’s name on it. Then after the awards have been handed out for the largest trout and non trout fish they start pulling names.
Handing out the trophies are a lot of fun especially when the child is young. Everyone claps and cheers for the Fishing Derby winners for their coveted role and for their accomplishment, which will be recorded in history. Then, the anticipation of seeing all the potential prizes are awaiting in front of the kids, who have managed to squeeze in the center of the pavilion, overlapping one another to get a good look at the activity.
One of the adults, either Beth, Lori or Nina start pulling a ticket and reveal the name of the first child who gets their choice of the stacked up items. Then it goes in rapid fire, continuing the sequence of pulling another ticket and announcing another name and the child picking their item. Some names are duplicated, sometimes all siblings are called one right after the other, and sometimes no child’s name is called at all. When half of the picnic tables are visible, they ask to see a show of hands for those who’s name has not been called. Those kids are allowed to approached the prize area to claim one for their own.
Once, a year or two after Ryan passed away, someone called Ryan Piper during the prize giveaway. When the ticket was reviewed again, it was clearly marked Kyle Piper. I guess someone was thinking of Ryan, or Ryan wanted to make his presence known and played a prank on everyone. Regardless it was nice hearing his name and having him verbally included in the day!
It really is a good time, with everyone walking away with not only prizes but truly great memories lasting forever and a tradition that is still going strong. It takes a lot of time and planning to pull this off every year between getting donations from local businesses, getting the apparel printed, preparing the food, the kids prizes, cleaning up the pavilion and having the pond stocked. To everyone involved, Thank You for all your efforts and hard work! It does not go without notice or appreciation!
And since it was Mother’s Day, to all those mothers, aunts, cousins, neighbors, friends, guardians and even some men who play duel roles of mother and father, Happy Mother’s Day!