When I was a kid, my dad would take my brothers and me fishing. I didn’t have much interest in it, and, being the youngest, I usually ended up throwing rocks in the water out of boredom. After a while, they stopped taking me on those trips, and, needless to say, I never learned how to fish.
My 11-year-old son,
Christopher, has been a boy scout for a couple of months now, and one
of the merit badges he has to earn is for fishing. The requirements are
that he catches at least two species of fish, and clean, cook and eat
at least one of them.
(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)
I bought him a fishing pole at Costco, but, unfortunately, that was all the help I could be to him. Over the summer, he’s been on two separate camping trips with the scouts to Lake Pardee, where he had the opportunity to get at least some of the requirements done. However, not only did he fail to catch anything, the whole troop came up empty-handed, both times, despite other anglers easily catching fish.
My wife’s sister, Barbara, and her husband, Mike, live in the wooded hills of the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon. She’s a retired teacher, and he’s a forester. Modesty would prevent Mike from saying he’s an expert, but he’s experienced at all things outdoors. We recently took an extended weekend trip to the Rogue Valley in part to visit with family, but also in hopes of catching Christopher’s first fish.
For our first stop, uncle Mike took us to the Butte Falls fish hatchery, about a 45-minute drive from their house. It was one of those places where you just drop a line in the water and you get a bite. Indeed, as we set up, anglers of all ages were pulling fish out of the 50- by 40-yard pond. There were several snags in the pond, bushes and trees growing out of the water, so we settled in a shady spot away from the others.
(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens Canon 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/10. ISO: 200)
Mike helped Christopher bait his hook and taught him the secrets of casting his line. Five minutes passed with a few bites but no fish. Then 10 minutes, and then 15. Christopher was in his anxious stance, hands at is side, standing still. I guessed that he was thinking about his Pardee experience, I know I was. Mike, methodical and patient, continued helping Christopher, giving him tips and hints. The lull in the action proved a blessing in disguise. It gave Christopher time to practice his casting, and he became quite good at it, being able to throw his line in with distance and accuracy.
(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8 w/fill-flash. ISO: 200)
After about 20 minutes a park ranger made his rounds and told us that we were at the shallow end of the pond. He said during hot days, the fish like to retreat to the deeper end on the side of the pond opposite us. Christopher moved to an open spot as began fishing as Mike and I moved our gear over to the new spot. Nearly as soon as he cast his line, Christopher reeled in a rainbow trout. In no time he had caught three more. Mike even set up his rod and reel to catch a couple himself. Then he showed Christopher how to clean the fish. It grossed out Christopher a bit at first, but soon he was able to do it easily himself.
We moved on to a different venue about a 10- to 15-minute drive away to a former logging pond that was about 10 times bigger than the hatchery’s fishing hole. I thought it would take Christopher a little longer to catch something there than in the more controlled environment of our previous spot, but it only took a few minutes before he caught something. This time it was a largemouth bass. It was a little on the small side, so we decided to release it back into the pond. A few minutes later, Christopher caught another bass, this time a keeper.
A little more fishing resulted in catching a bluegill. The merit badge requirements called for two species, and Christopher caught three, so we decided to call it a day. I know Mike didn’t want to step on my parental toes, but I deferred to his expertise and experience. I was just along for the ride (and to document the trip). But least I didn’t throw any rocks in the water.