(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Take Me Fishing

A couple of years ago I took my then seven year-old and five year-old fishing off the heels to a successful trip to the Pocono Mountains where a beautiful seven year-old girl cast like a pro and caught 6 fish in two mornings of fishing -- bluegill, bass, sunfish. Several months after that, I took them fishing at a local pond, and we didn't catch anything, well, except that when my son cast his Scooby Doo rod, he caught the meat part of his right thumb. After that, he wasn't too enthused about fishing.

Over the past couple of years, in about five or six sessions we came up empty. The fish took most of our bait, or they didn't bite, or a huge orange grass carp stared at my daughter's line but didn't grab at the bait. Perhaps we went too late in the morning or too early in the afternoon, the bait was wrong or the hooks were too big. We tended to buy earthworms at a local beer distributorship, only to learn that other locals catch their fish with frozen hot dogs, corn and bread.

The great thing about fishing is that fishermen are eager to share their wisdom and that you definitely learn from your experiences. For example, two years ago we learned that on overcast days the fish are more likely to come out than on bright, sunny days, because like people they don't like to stay out in the sun too long. Translated, that meant that glorious casting bore results on overcast days, while dropping our lines close to the dock worked on a sunny day. The fish liked the shade that the dock offered.

Our collective wisdom taught us a few things this morning. First, it was hot and humid, so we decided to drop our lines near the dock, especially after a man on a bass boat told us while alighting from his boat when we arrived at the dock that the fish weren't biting. Second, after trying with mid-sized hooks and bread and failing, we went to school on advice that a man who worked at Dick's told us the night before -- use smaller hooks for the lake we were fishing. So, we switched to rather small hooks. Lastly, we switched to red trout worms, figuring that live bait would work better than bread. I also improved my knot-tying and untangling of lines.

What happened was instant success. We were oh for our careers fishing in our home county, and last Sunday the fish took about 22 of our worms and we caught nothing. Once we switched to live bait and smaller hooks, the sunnies and bass attacked our lines with reckless abandon. My now seven year-old son caught 6 fish in an hour (and, yes, we catch and release), working so quickly that I hardly had time to put my line into the water. Finally, when he took a break, I dropped my line right near the dock and landed a nice-sized bass. Very gently each time we removed the hook and released the fish back into the water.

It was a great morning, standing on a dock, with a slight breeze, talking to my son and concentrating only on fishing. Yes, we wished it were a little cooler and, yes, we wished that casting longer distances would bring us more fish, but you take your fishing opportunities as they come, learn from them, and then have fishing tales to tell.

I find fishing particularly relaxing because there's no collateral noise. The boats are quiet, as are the fishermen, and the people who come out to enjoy this particular park do so with a degree of reverence. It's about enjoying nature, not seeing how loud you can be in an open space. The fact that tying knots, putting on bobbers and leaders and the right hook requires concentration removes you from thinking about your daily routine and what might await you at the office the following week.

It's also a very affordable hobby. A Pennsylvania fishing license (with a trout stamp) costs $31, but all told your fishing rod, reel, bait, hooks, leaders, bobbers and pliers (yes, you need the latter to help you remove problematic hooks from a fish's mouth) won't run you more than another $50 total (you don't have to spend more than $30 for a good rod, and there are kits that you buy that give you all sorts of lures, leaders and hooks in addition to a rod). You then go outside, stand on a dock or the side of a lake, and cast away. Bring a chair to sit in, bring your sunscreen and a playmate cooler with a cold drink, and you're all set.

Sounds pretty simple and peaceful, doesn't it?

And that it is.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

great articles. my name is Abe.
I'm doing some research on globalization of sports, if you have time, can I ask your insights on some issues? my email is looking forward to hear from you soon

7:12 PM  
Blogger Charlottesvillain said...

My 6 year old has become rather obsessed with fishing, primarily for bream in the pond we have in the country. He digs for earth worms and cut worms, and now baits the hooks himself, and has learned to be patient on those days when it takes some time to get a bite. I bought him a small pair of needle nose pliars and he now removes hooks by himself as well.

It has been dry and last week we couldn't find any worms, so he decided to cast a Rapala minnow instead. He didn't really expect to catch anything, and BAM a 2 pound large mouth bass hit his lure. I helped him land it, and he is now reconsidering his former disdain for artificials.

Yes, fishing is the best.

10:09 AM  
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