I’ve been a fisherman for most of my life, although for the past twenty-five years my fishing has been limited to a couple of outings a year. I very much relish those occasions when they arise, especially the trips back to Missouri to catch Rainbows and Browns on a fly rod. But something has happened recently that has given me the unique opportunity to relive the beginnings of my fishing experience, back to when I was a boy. My grand-kids are now old enough to take fishing. And being the good old Pops that I am, I see it as my duty to take them fishing and teach them the ropes.
Last fall my son and I took Cara, who was three and a half, and Jake who was almost five, fishing at a local retention pond. With red and white bobbers, pinch sinkers, Eagle Claw hooks and a Styrofoam container of night crawlers, we slaughtered the bluegill and other assorted sunfish that day. There was a lot of oohing and ahhing and giggling to go around, and it was a delight to watch the two kids touch, or not touch, the worms and fish. And It was a delight for me to relearn how to set the hook and catch a panfish using a bobber and worms. I’ll never forget the day and it only whetted my appetite for the next outing. Well, the next outing happened this past weekend, and you aren’t going to believe what went on down at the neighborhood pond.
Julie and I were privileged to have Jake over the weekend and the weather was warm for April; and I was in a fishing mood. Julie volunteered to pick up the night crawlers (she called and asked if I wanted 30 skinny ones or 15 big, fat, juicy night crawlers and you can guess which ones I chose). I asked Julie if she would like to come along and surprisingly she said yes. I’m observant enough to realize that she only came because Jake was coming. Funny thing how that works; when we were dating she would join me on my fishing outings on a regular basis, but once she put that golden ring on my finger she forever declined to accompany me thereafter (camping for Julie is staying at a Holiday Inn). Anyway, whatever the motive, she enthusiastically agreed to join us. The day arrived and we loaded up Jake, his two foot Iron Man fishing pole, my pole, and some snacks, and drove the two blocks down the street to the retention pond.
At the pond we set the bobbers about a foot and a half above the hook and immediately started catching bluegill. Jake was more than generous and allowed his Gigi to take turns using his two foot pole and they both became proficient at setting the hook and reeling in eight inch whoppers, one after the other. Needless to say, I was the worm putter-onner and fish taker-offer, but hey, I’m here to serve. Watching Julie reel in the “big one” gave me a special thrill and I wondered if she would ever join me fishing again, assuming she was having such a great time that she couldn’t resist (I later asked her that exact question and she assured me the answer was a resounding no).
I should have known it wasn’t going to be an ordinary day when I hooked a three pound bass. With bobbers and worms? Who catches bass this way? Here’s the picture with me, Jake and the bass.
After catching that bass, things now stood right with the world. I was catching the most fish and the biggest fish was mine (What kind of man competes with a five-year old for biggest fish anyhow?). But, I was soon to find that my smug attitude and self-satisfied demeanor were about to be wiped off my face, and rather quickly.
Shortly thereafter, Jake had a fish on his line that was giving him a run for the money and Gigi and I were shouting words of encouragement as he tugged and pulled for all he was worth. After the fish was dragged onto the bank, I could see it was big. In fact, I hadn’t seen a bluegill that size since I was a youngster fishing with Jim Chittenden down on Dry Fork Creek. Here’s a shot of the monster bluegill that five-year old Jake landed- on his own.
I believe I was more excited than Jake. I could barely put my hands around the breadth of that fish. Huge! Anyway, it couldn’t possibly get any better than this. Or could it?
I was down the bank a ways from Julie and Jake, concentrating on my bobber which was undulating on top of the wind-blown water, when I heard Julie exclaim, “I’ve got a big one!” Even though I had heard that “got a big one” numerous times throughout the day, only to find a normal size bluegill on the other end of the line, I turned to glance her way, as all fisherman are prone to do when they hear someone shout out, “fish on!” I could see the tip of the tiny pole arcing downward and noticed Julie struggling and straining and pulling, but at that point I wasn’t convinced and returned to watching my bobber. And then, out of the corner of my eye, amidst all the screaming and shouting from Jake and Julie, I saw it. A huge large-mouth bass had leapt out of the water and was doing what large-mouth bass often do while suspended two feet above the water’s surface; it was trying to shake the hook out of its mouth. I immediately threw my pole to the ground and ran over to make sure the two novices didn’t screw it up and lose the huge fish. I’m sure my shouting was encouraging as I yelled out, “Pull harder!; Don’t lose it!; Keep reeling!”
After a few moments of epic struggle the fight was over, and when the bass was finally close enough to the shore, I reached down and pulled it out of the water. I was stunned. I had once caught a five-pound bass, but this fish could have swallowed my prize whole. It was huge. Julie was so excited, as was Jake, that it was hard to get her to pose for the camera. The picture doesn’t do the fish justice, but you might notice that Julie is having a difficult time holding the fish for the photo. You also might notice the cute little kiddy pole, that someone insisted on purchasing for our grandson, in her left hand.
I have no idea how much the fish weighed, but it was the biggest bass I’ve ever witnessed up close. It was of comparable size to so many of the trophies I’ve seen mounted on the walls of fishing tackle stores or in someone’s “man cave”. So, in the end, here’s the final tally for the day: Jake caught the largest sunfish of the day and Julie caught the largest bass of the day (due to all the excitement, we lost track of how many fish each of us caught). And me? Well, I was the proudest husband and Pops of the day.
On a sad note- there’s probably some poor sucker out there who has fished for that elusive trophy bass for over forty years, and spent thousands of dollars on boats and poles and tackle, arisen early and stayed out late, suffered sunburn and backaches and cuts and bruises to body and ego, only to have Julie spend $4 on night crawlers, using bobbers and Eagle Claw hooks, on a $9.99 Iron Man fishing pole, and after no more than a brief afternoon, catch a monster bass like I have never seen before. I won’t tell the guy if you don’t.
Nothing quite like a good day fishing.