I love my family, fishing, and education. This post is about two of those things.
I had long awaited the day when my kids were old enough to go fishing with me. I have great memories fishing for and catching many walleyes with my dad and two brothers on the Missouri River in South Dakota. We all became pretty good fisherman and were rarely skunked. By the time we were teenagers, we were skilled enough to take the boat out on our own and land a limit of fish. The good memories certainly stick in my mind, but I think I know why Pops had a head full of white hair by the time he was in his mid 30s. Taking young kids fishing is not always a Rockwell moment.
My son Gavin is 8 and my daughter Harper is 5, and I have taken them both fishing with me a few times this spring. They each have their own rod with a spincast reel and know how to cast. Of course, most of our casting practice had been in the front yard with few snags and plenty of room to whip around their hookless practice lures. Our first foray on the stream this spring consisted of me saying, “You two fish right here. Don’t hook each other in the face, but if you do, please don’t tell Mom. I’ll be way over there fishing.” My thought was that they would busy themselves casting and I could use my fly rod, get some peace and quiet, and hopefully land the fish I saw working upstream. It didn’t work out that way. Within the first 10 minutes of our outing, each had casted across the stream, snagged up, and broken off their spinners. I grumpily trudged back to them, retied their lines, told them exactly where NOT to cast, and then tried to escape back upstream to the good water. Round 2 lasted about 11 minutes before one had embedded their hook in their stocking cap and the other had broken off on a tree behind them. I could feel my own hair turning white with frustration.
Gavin had given up at this point and ran off to do some exploring, but 5-year-old Harper was determined to keep fishing. I tucked my rod safely away and stuck with her to help fine tune her cast and ideally avoid any trips to the ER for hook removal. We developed a pretty good system as I’d cast her lure upstream, pass the rod back to her, and tell her to crank hard to keep from getting hung up. To my great surprise, she connected with a brownie after about 5 casts. There was a lot of commotion and squealing (I’ll be honest, I did the squealing) as we netted the little fellow and she got to hold it for a quick picture. I know TU and the DNR don’t promote hugging and kissing a fish before release, but special considerations should be made for a kid’s first trout.
That was the only fish of the day, but Harper and I have gone out a couple other times since. I didn’t even bother to bring my own rod so we could continue our cast, pass, and crank method with her Red Zebco. While there is a tremendous sense of accomplishment (and self-congratulation) in landing a trout after delicately placing a fly in just the right spot, it has been rivaled by being the net man to an eager angler wearing a pink hat and polka-dotted mittens.
Thank you Dad for teaching me to be a fisherman and father, and thank you Harper for making me better at both.