Monday, May 12, 2008

Never Enough Attention for the First Fish

'Edwin.' I whispered, while I was a small child. 'Edwin. The bobber. It's jumping.'

'Not now!' He scowled. His attention consumed, focused into a ball of tangled fishing line and a problematic fishing reel.

'But there's a fish...' And there was! Despite the stress of repairing the faulty reel, I was proud to catch the fish. And even prouder when Edwin took my brother and I to the White Mountains and we caught trout.

Or when I caught a 28-inch Northern Pike in Wisconsin when I was casting idly from the dock.

Or when my cousin caught a 45+ inch Lake Trout on Lake Superior and we jumped like girls after hauling the monster into the boat.

But I caught my first fish in the swimming hole that I now own. Someone cut a sapling and tied a string and hook to it to use as a pole. The fish was a 3-inch long hornpout. My Dad helped me.

We brought the thing home and let it rest in the grass.

'Don't touch it!' I shied away after hearing Dad's warning. 'These things can sting.'

So we looked eyes-wide at the hornpout.

I take my local nieces fishing and in my opinion, there can never be enough attention given to a child who catches their first fish. Her big sisters before her, she was ready, trained, and educated by the older girls.

She was also bugging her mom, my sister, so I knew that it was time.

I ask into the handset, 'Are you free to go fishing?'

'Let me ask. Mom!? Am I free to go fishing?'

I talk to my sister and she agrees to drop her off at the Greenville Pond on their way back from shopping. I visit at my parent's house until I get the call, ready with tackle, poles, worms, and excitement.

The call arrives. I leave and get ready at the edge of the pond. My sister's family arrives in their mini-van.

My youngest niece smiles from the depths of the van. 'Hi.'

She walks out and hugs everyone in her family, jumping, and smiling from ear to ear. I give her some ground rules about only being able to cast twice (for my safety more than anything). I ask her to pick out a worm and my sister, smiling also from ear to ear takes some photos with my camera.

First Fishing Trip

After final, final hugs, my sister's family leaves my youngest niece and I at the fishing hole. Her bobber listing in the gentle breeze, bobbing on the incidental waves.

My line in the water: tap, tap. I set the hook. 'Ready for your first fish?'

She reels in a small perch, jumping! Her line continues to list in the pond.

I take my camera as she looks wide-eyed at the fish. Ask her to pose with the wriggling perch.



I take the hook from the perch and release it and we turn to her pole.

'Reel it in.' She starts working the reel and I guide the line away from the edge of the pond so it doesn't snag. The bobber travels towards the center of the pond. I smile.

'I think you got one.'

Her eyes widen. 'Really?'

'Yes.' I smile.

A little sunfish emerges from the water.

Her own fish!!!

A fisherman further down hears the whooping and hollering so he comes over to congratulate her. She's beaming from ear to ear. We talk and the fisherman says 'Great job!'

She takes the line and the sunfish is wriggling about. She poses for several photos.

Catching the First Fish

The fish swallowed the hook so I cut the line explaining to her, 'The water is going to make the fishhook disappear in a few days.' She blinks a little, but doesn't seem interested, different than her sisters who needed to know everything.

We watch the fish swim away.

I reflect for a moment when I fished with my uncle, captivated by mechanical things, a forgotten line catching a sunfish like my niece did today.

After we finish, we meet her family at my parent's house. She finds mom and shyly buries her face into her mother's tummy. Unable to tell the story. So I captivate a houseful of people with the story of the first fish.

There is never enough attention given when a child catches a first fish.

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