Dad worked for the school system so he had summers off. I spent almost every summer of my childhood fishing on the river. Maybe I got too much of a good thing too early because for the last 20 years I have done very little fishing. However, my youngest son, Bat, has recently caught the bug and he has it bad. It started simple enough.
He went to the lake with one of his friends for the weekend. When they were not swimming, they were fishing from the dock and he caught several bluegills. When he came home he wanted a fishing pole and a tackle box. We bought him both and he became immersed in fishing at the lake for the rest of last summer. How bad did he have it? Every time he would go into a Wal-Mart he wanted to buy lures and tackle instead of toys. And, the fishing section of every Cabela’s catalog would get immediately marked up with the things he wanted shortly after it arrived.
Granted, for a seven year old, catching bluegills from the dock can be exciting but I wanted to show Bat what real fishing was about and find out if he was up for it. The next spring, fellow outdoor writer John Haviland was coming in for a couple days of turkey hunting so I set up a fishing trip down the New River for us. I made arrangements for Bat to go along. On the day of the trip, as we drove the two hours to the point where we would launch the rafts, Bat must have asked 15 times if we were there yet. He couldn’t have been more excited if it had been Christmas morning.
The float trip lasted just over eight hours and Bat fished almost non-stop the entire time. His arm got so tired he would lay his pole down, rub his biceps and forearms, then pick the pole up and get right back after it. He caught the largest smallmouth on the trip and even completely wore out the cheap reel we had purchased for him. He fell into a coma-like sleep on the way home and never woke when I carried him into the house.
I guess in a way, seeing Bat so engrossed in fishing maybe awakened something that had been sleeping in me for a long time. One thing that I was sure of was that as a father I would be negligent if I did not continue to foster his interest in fishing. I ordered him a new Diawa reel from Cabela’s the very next day.
In a few months we were able to find a small camp on the Greenbrier River and I picked up a used canoe. A cove just in front of the camp was filled with crawfish and when Bat learned they were good bait he caught a bait bucket full of them. Of course I had to bait the hook, but the first evening there he caught a nice smallmouth on a crawdad. Over the next few weeks I tried to get Bat on the water as often as possible. I stated teaching him where to look for fish and what type lures and bait to use in certain locations and at certain times of day. His interest only got stronger.
School is back in session now and I’m proud to say Bat has come a long way in one year. Just last weekend he baited his own hook with a crawdad he caught by himself and then used it to catch a fish. Bat’s not taking the fish off the hook yet but he will hold them now. (As much as he likes to catch fish, it took a long time to get him to tough one.) Maybe the overexposure to fishing in my youth kept me from realizing its importance to a young boy, or any kid. My three-year-old daughter caught her first fish this year and she seems to have the bug as well.
Yep, kids and fish go together like peanut butter and jelly but teaching a kid to fish is a sandwich that will last them the rest of their life.