The grandsons made it clear, “Paw? Please take us fishing.” They are both good and effective in their pleadings. As if it was ever a question.
Now. The situation. There’s a small lake in our homeowners association that is known for Crappie…that may reach 5 inches. It’s an ideal kids’ pond…with a water spout in the center…clear area along the shore and even though it’s September there are not weeds upon weeds to avoid.
The equipment is “basic kid” stuff. A zebco reel, a short 5 foot Zebco rod. A short leader and hook that works well with night crawlers. The bobber is red/white which can be seen. Easy as can be.
Hey. This is not rocket science. Teaching the kids [8 year old twins] to cast is somewhat challenging, but after a few tries, they get it just fine.
We’ve fished there before…and once we caught a 7 inch bass, but otherwise the Crappies which have to be cloned—all 5 inches at most.
First cast and then more than a dozen followed…with bites galore, zipping and zagging and modestly dipping bobbers…some fish on, but not for long.
The clock was ticking…almost time to get the kids back to their parents for a Labor Day Camping trip.
Aiden held the rod, I assisted a little…and it was our best cast…about 40 feet into the pond. I handed the rod to Aiden…he knew how to click the reel so it was ready. A slight wind rippled the water. I turned to get Jackson set up with his rod, smiled at their 4 year old brother, Noah, and clapped a little. So did Noah. Diane had started the film to encourage Aiden, “Come on, Aiden! Get a big one.”
Didn’t know at the time, but my wife is prophetic. Just wait.
I looked back to the pond. The bobber had disappeared and Aiden was holding on…his reel was not letting out line by itself. No sir. “Paw! A Fish!” Which turned out to be a major understatement.
I saw immediately it was not an even match. Aiden started to reel but the line kept going out. That fish wasn’t stopping. Figured it was headed to another zip code.
Time for Paw to help. It then became the Paw and Aiden and BIG FISH show. I didn’t know how much line on the reel, but sensed I was about find out. So I started the mantra—it was fishing classroom on the spot, “Aiden? Look at Paw! Lift up…reel down. Say that.” I’m not sure he heard me…but I know his eyes listened—they had become saucers.
The fish and bobber could not be seen. But the bent-in-half Zebco rod told us the fish hadn’t escaped. Still was in our zip code.
We were so focused on the lift/reel drill we didn’t realize others had gathered. I should have sold tickets. One of the men said, “Mister? You’ve got quite a fish.” No disagreement.
Almost as if we were doing an ESPN fishing special. The fish surfaced. It was about 24 inches in length. People began to gasp out loud. I started to hope we wouldn’t lose the fish. But, hey, no guarantees. I had lost two very large salmon 2 weeks ago when fishing in the Columbia River. This was simply the neighborhood pond.
Slowly but surely Mr. Aiden and his grandfather lifted and reeled. Diane wanted to help—timely and so necessary. She grabbed the net and as I lifted the fish, ever so slowly, she netted with skill—not as good as her adult coloring book creating, but more than successful. The fish was in the sagging net. Everyone clapped and cheered.
I didn’t look for a trophy. But the beaming smile on Aiden…will last a life time.
Turns out it was almost [our bragging rights here] 4 pounds…removed the hook and said to Aiden, “Aiden you did a great job. Now you’ll have a story to tell your class on Tuesday…what a great fisherman you are. We’ll put this catfish back so it can grow larger.”
A moment for a lifetime—at least for mine.
But, the future has a purpose. I looked at Jackson, who’s Aiden’s twin. He smiled and said quietly, “Paw? Maybe I could do that next time?”
Are you kidding me? What’s life without challenges? And to think…the next time Mr. Catfish will have grown some.