In 2017 Paul Rath attended the North Words Symposium in Skagway. He joined an early morning session in the library hosted by Deb Vanasse, an experience that led to the birth of his first book, Fishing with My Fathers, earlier this year.
“Deb started off the session by challenging us to write out a list of 10 things of which we were masters,” Rath says. “I only came up with six, but fishing for white fish topped my list. As I’ve been doing it for 40 years with my family, I do truly feel like I’ve mastered that skill.”
When Vanasse had participants expand on one of the items from their lists, it was a no-brainer for Rath.
“That paragraph turned into a story, and that story turned into a set of stories about fishing with my father and my other fishing teachers,” he says. “Fishing provided us with the chance to talk, and we talked about everything, nothing was off-limits. We talked about what happens after you die, my place in the tapestry of my family, the difficult bosses. Those conversations were my father teaching me how to be a good human.”
And that single story turned into an entire book.
“There is one spot we fish, called the point,” says Rath, relating one of the stories from the book. “I think of it as my spot. There are a million things that come together to make that spot magical. One day we arrived to fish and there was someone already there. Fishing protocol required that we needed to leave that spot to the person that got there first and we would have to move further down the lake. But as we fished I noticed that he wasn’t very good. My brother and I crowded him and started catching fish right beside him. Eventually he got disgusted and left. As he was walking away my dad called him back and then dumped all of the fish I had caught into his bag. I realize now that it was my dad teaching me that you can’t benefit from being rude.”
This book is Rath’s tribute to his father, his grandfather and the other fishing teachers who tried to teach him to be a man. He says the process of writing the book was like climbing a never-ending staircase. The process of writing, refining and sending your work out again and again is relentless.
“It’s been a long, hard climb for an old fat guy with a bad knee,” he laughed. But now it’s out there.
To learn more about Rath’s journey towards Fishing with my Fathers you can check out his facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/paul.rathauthor.9.
The book can be purchased from Wood Lake Publishing.