Great Granpaw

MARTIN THOMAS McKEAN
Posted 4/5/18

(Reprinted from a 1942 article by permission of the family) Granpaw was a pickerel around whom a legend has grown. He lived in “Dead Water,” a beaver pond in the Shohola Brook. At this …

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Great Granpaw

Posted

(Reprinted from a 1942 article by permission of the family)

Granpaw was a pickerel around whom a legend has grown. He lived in “Dead Water,” a beaver pond in the Shohola Brook. At this point, the banks of the brook are overgrown with willows, affording splendid cover for the pickerel lounging beneath them. Every year a plentiful supply of fish came down the brook from the Shohola Falls Lake. providing excellent fishing year after year.

This is how the story goes:

My brother, “Hen,” and I were fishing at Dead Water on a cool summer evening many years ago, when Granpaw made his debut. We had four fair-sized fish, when with a wild eruption Granpaw struck at my pork strip. I knew by the way he struck that I had a large fish, so I called Hen down to help me land him. I then set the hook.

Boy, did that fish come to life! Up and across the brook he tore, thrashing and clearing the water every few feet. l was dumbfounded. Never before had I tied on to such a fish. The reel screeched like a thing possessed, as the pickerel went up the brook almost to the limit of my line before I turned him. Even Hen, who usually offered much free advice, though he was four years my junior, couldn’t say a word. The great fish then tore down the brook. Frantically I pumped the reel trying to keep the slack out of the line. It was no use. I couldn’t match the speed of this baby with my poor reel. When he was a scant 10 feet from me, he again cleared the water and with a violent shake of his head, threw the hook. The line went slack and my heart sank. He was gone. Hen broke the silence of the historic evening saying, “Mart, that was the Granpaw of them all.” And so the great fish was named.

That night we arrived home, Dad listened knowingly to our tales of this enormous pickerel. After much debate, we judged its length at between 30 and 36 inches. We then proceeded to make plans for his capture.

The next week we again tried to catch Granpaw. Hen tied on to him this time and had about as much luck as I had, All that summer we tried and failed to land him. We caught many fine fish on these weekly jaunts, but only one four pounder that Hen caught neared the size of this great pickerel.

The mornings were frosty now. The leaves painted the hills of Pike County in rich hues of red and yellow. Soon they would fall to the forest floor like a blanket to protect Mother Nature from the winter to come. It was the time of the year when hunters long for the smell of burning powder and start their yearly excursions through the hills and dales after grouse, woodcock and bouncing cottontail. Hen and I succumbed to the spell of the hunter’s moon, and thus ended our quest of Granpaw that year.

During the long evening of the following winter, he was a frequent subject of discussion. At these sessions, we devised many elaborate means to catch him and shelved them in our memories for the future use.

Trout season had come and gone with many fine catches. At last pickerel season opened again. Eagerly we set forth after Granpaw on opening day. We fished the full length of Dead Water without a sight of him. Satisfied with the fish we had, we decided the great fish was not hungry that day.

The next week we again fished Dead Water, and Grandpaw failed to make an appearance. This went on for several weeks, and I began to wonder what had happened to him. Was he dead? Did he move? Had someone else caught him? Then it dawned on to me. I remembered hearing a neighbor mention that some “city feller” had caught a big pickerel in Dead Water the previous October. That was it! Granpaw was dead!

I said nothing about this to Hen or Gib, a younger brother who was by then a budding fisherman. Although I figured that Granpaw no longer ruled over Dead Water, the thought of catching him added greatly to the pleasure we got from catching the other fish.

This all happened many years ago. Granpaw is only a legend now, a legend that lures us back to Dead Water every year. Though he has long since graced the table of some fisherman, his spirit is in Dead Water today, just as he was there many years ago. But this is as it should be. Fishermen, since the day of Isaac Waldo, have been lured far and wide in quest of big fish. That is what makes fishing the grand sport it is, the underlying hope of catching the proverbial “big one that got away.”

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