By TJ Stallings

If you grew up in Central Florida, you grew up near a lake. You were blessed. I too was a very fortunate young boy.

This story begins on one of those many lakes, Lake Estelle. You may have driven over this lake on your way to Winter Park. Yes that lake. A causeway known as Mill’s Avenue splits the waters.

Dad parked on a side street early that morning. Walking through the wet grass, we quickly made our way towards the bridge. Though our feet were soaked, our minds were on the first cast.

We cast our jigs with ultra-light rods. Our quarry was the Coppernose bluegill. These are Florida native panfish. They fight hard and taste so good. Dad quickly bagged seven before I landed my first one. He was a great angler.

I added another fish to the stringer. Then it happened. I dropped the stringer and it quickly began to sink. The fish began to swim in all directions, tethered to that yellow cord. I shouted to dad to come quick.

Dad ran up on the bridge and cast towards the stringer. He could see much better from that height. He snagged it. Dad took up slack with the reel as he walked back down the bank. He only lost one fish from that stringer.

He did not holler. He did not chew me out. He laughed and said, “It looks like I’ve caught fifteen bluegill.”

We laughed and continued to fish until it got hot.

Almost forty years later, dad slipped away at sunrise. I do not think he even knew that his hospital room was on the shore of Lake Estelle.

TJ Stallings is director of marketing for Road Runner Lures and Daiichi Hooks.

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