I can just come out and say with total confidence that you’ve never heard of Erlanger, Kentucky. If I’m wrong and you have heard of it, I would say with confidence that you either work for a Toyota plant, work for The United States Playing Card Company at their corporate headquarters, or eat a lot of AirHeads candy. Or maybe you’re just good people who know and love Erlanger the way I do, from having visited or lived there and seen how wonderful a place it is.
To me, Erlanger means one thing: grandma’s house. My grandmother has lived at Doris Court in Erlanger longer than I’ve been alive, and I used to love going to visit her when I was a young boy (and a young man, and a slightly older man — it’s always nice to visit your grandmother). I loved her dearly, and as an aspiring fisherman I also loved that the end of Doris Court led right up to a beautiful little farm pond full of all kinds of fish.
It’s just a typical, everyday neighborhood farm pond in the midwest, which I say with true reverence. I’m sure it’s often unknown and often overlooked by anglers. But it has a fond place in my heart from growing up fishing it. Whenever I visited from out of state I’d hop on that pond and catch bass, bluegill, carp, and whatever else. It was an absolute ball and in many ways another key foundation to my ultimate fishing journey.
The littles things are the most memorable. Sometimes we’d just sit out there after the sunset, watching fireflies light up in the tall grass at the water’s edge. Around the pond, thick forest pressed right up to the edges of the water. Families of ducks and geese floated easily out on the still waters as the first stars started to come out overhead, and in the branches across the water we could hear whippoorwill and other songbirds peeping up for the night.
I fished that pond with my great uncle and my grandfather, and even my grandma every so often. It can’t be more than an acre, but it’s loaded with fish and few people know of it. We don’t catch a ton of large fish; my brother and I have caught a handful of largemouth over the years, but most aren’t that big. There are a ton of frogs, deer that come right down to the water, and plenty of poison ivy or chiggers to give a parting itch to take with you.
It’s had ups and downs over the year as a fishery, but the cool thing to think about is how growing up on it is something that can pay forward. When I was a boy, we went to the fair and I won a goldfish, which we released into the pond. I didn’t stop to think it was probably eaten mere moments later — I thought I was doing a good thing.
Fast forward, and I recently took my daughter out to the farm pond on Doris Court. I got a great picture of her standing there with a bluegill, smiling from ear to ear so proud of herself and her catch. But not half as proud as her daddy. She was probably standing in the same exact spot I had stood so many years before.
That’s just the way God works, and it’s crazy to think about it. One day a small kid is fishing a pond, not thinking about a thing, and 30 years later is back with his own kid. It’s humbling, and in many ways makes Doris Court and the other hundreds of ponds just like it some of the most awe-inspiring, beautiful places of all the ones in the world I’ve been. It’s about what it means to individuals, what it means for dreams and fate and all that.
Life changes, and you don’t know where and how these small moments can end up recurring. They just strike you years and years later with a powerful memory. When people ask me why I love fishing as much as I do, I think about these places like Doris Court. Sure, I think about Cabo and Hawaii and the beautiful Alaskan wilderness, too, but the biggest catch and greatest adventure can’t always hold a candle to a little farm pond, the purposeful exploration of a kid, or the bursting pride of a dad. There’s nothing else like it.