Sunday, September 21, 2014

When it comes to fishing, kids teach adults what it’s all about

It isn’t easy to take young kids fishing.

They want to know when the next fish will bite. When they can have their snack. They want to move from the front of the boat to the back, and then to the front again. They’ll probably trip along the way. Sometimes they want to hold the fishing rod, sometimes they only want to reel in the fish. And when they do, they reel until the bobber or the sinker is pressing hard against the tip of the rod, and you’re scrambling to make sure the line doesn’t break as the fish flops in mid-air.

And when the fish is finally in the boat, you’re in a hurry to get the hook out, lest it fly out of the mouth of the fish and impale someone.

But when you hand that fish to the kids and let them hold it, you can see the wheels turning in their minds. Hard to know what they’re thinking. About half the time, they ask if they can throw it back. The other half, they ask if they can eat it.

Lots of curiosity, questions. And lots of work for the adults – the word relaxing certainly doesn’t come to mind. But it’s oh so worth it.

This summer marks the first time I’ve really been able to take my kids – 4 and 2 years old – fishing. They’ve come with me in the past, but this year was the first time they seemed to get it. (The 4-year-old, anyway; the younger one just likes to be around his sister.)

So it’s no coincidence I fished more this summer than I have in years. It was back to the basics, and it was awesome. I learned you’re never too old to appreciate a bobber dancing on the water and then shooting below the surface. You’re never to old to appreciate the valiant struggle of a 7-inch bluegill. And you’re never too old to enjoy the simple act of fishing.

From the perspective of an adult who’s fished his entire life, that last point may be the most important. For years, fishing was about finding bass in preparation for a tournament. Couldn’t find them? Wasted, stressful day on the water. Sure, there were highs when the right ones bit on the day of the tournament, but that didn’t happen often enough. Then, it was about catching muskies. There are few things more exciting in freshwater fishing, but when you get to taking it too seriously, then 10 hours on the water without catching a fish amounts to a worthless day.

This summer, fishing with the kids reminded me what it’s all about. It’s being on the flat-calm lake and watching the sun light up your surroundings, or watching the shadows grow longer as it dips below the trees. It’s about hitting the water without expectations, except for to enjoy the hour or two or however long the trip lasts. It’s about going home at the end of the day with hands that smell like fish, and not worrying about the size or species that caused them to stink.

So whatever work is involved in getting kids on the water, the rewards are far greater.