Wikipedia defines Recreation as: “the expenditure of time in a manner designed for therapeutic refreshment of one’s body or mind.”
Presumably, this is why I fish.
After a week (or several) of nose to the grindstone, hittin’ the bricks running, full speed ahead activity necessary to maintain a roof over our heads and food in the larder, the ol’ body and soul simply need a break.
My chosen form of recreation is fishing, usually with a fly rod. However, the older I get and (theoretically) the more experienced I get at my chosen addiction, the more gear and the more technique I acquire such that a quick trip to L.A. River or a local park often ends up resembling a commando raid with highly specialized, mission specific gear, top-secret notebooks of info, and maps marked in an alien code indecipherable to all but me.
Alas, even in leisure, my type-A personality creeps in and organizes a day on the water into a task-oriented blitzkreig.
So it was a real eye-opener yesterday when I had the good fortune to take my seven-year old god-daughter fishing for a couple of hours while her Dad got some well-deserved rest and her mom and “aunts” did the girls afternoon out thing.
I had already opted to use the spinning gear for this little venture and had already rigged one of my back-up poles for some sunfish action when my little fishin’ buddy showed up decked out in protective booney hat, her favorite hiking clothes, old shoes and…a three-foot Barbie pole.
Now, there is no way I would ever intentionally squelch the passion of an aspiring angler or bad mouth her shiny, new gear (so enthusiastically wielded) so I quietly stowed my pre-rigged rods behind the door, made a slight re-arrangement of tackle packs in my bag and formulated a detour in my plans to pick up some bait.
When we arrived at our selected lake, I was happy to note mostly clear water, an abundance of floating algae, only a few anglers and a slight breeze to keep things cool as we fished.
My fishin’ buddy, on the other hand, noticed the dancing ducks, lots of benches for eating snacks, the bridge for walking across the lake to get to the other side quicker and the bubbles (from the aerators) which “probably meant that there was a giant fish sleeping on the bottom”.
As we set up shop along the bank where I knew there were always some sunfish, we happily discussed the need for bait and why it smelt so bad and how we would get the “monster fish” onto the shore if my net wasn’t big enough and whether we would eat the monster fish or let him go. (We decided we would let him go).
I have to admit, I was caught off-guard.
Me – the one who generally hits a lake with military precision, carries minimal gear in carefully balanced and easily accessible packs and rarely talks while fishing. Here I was forced to slow down, engage in meaningful, albeit seven-year-old appropriate, conversation and notice things from a long suppressed point of view.
We admired the color of the bait, speculated on the purpose of red and white on the plastic floats and plotted more strategy on how we would catch the monster fish when it finally woke up.
I had to explain why ducks pick on each other and how they eat without teeth.
We tried to figure out if there was some way to make money from all the algae we had to keep pulling off of our rigs. We day-dreamed about what we would spend all that money on.
We watched a kid in a yellow shirt drive his remote control boat around the lake and wondered if THAT would awaken the monster fish. We giggled at the antics of the tiny sunfish along the bank as they tried to steal the bait from our hooks and we just sat in the grass and watched the ripples on the water.
Soon it became time for snack. I knew this because my god-daughter clearly said so. We pulled in our lines, walked back to the car and fetched the big, blue lunch bucket and smaller snack bag that her mom had packed and we went over to one of the shore-side benches to sit and eat while we soaked more bait.
This was a drastic change from my usual fishing meal of beef jerky and canteen water eaten while on the move… and I kind of liked it.
I experienced (or rather re-experienced) how much better cheese and crackers taste when you scribe a happy face in the cheese and I remembered how much fun it is to pull Oreos apart before eating them.
And for the first time in a long time I smiled at just being out on the water. Not about the trophy fish I just hooked, or the new, secret spot I just discovered or the way my cast laid out in a perfect loop or the path my fly took as it rode the current – I smiled because I was having fun with someone who thinks fishing is mostly about doing cool stuff outside with someone you want to be with.
We watched the dragonflies zip around just above the surface and we laughed as they hovered in front of us, eyeing our bait as we got ready to cast it out.
We kept this up until close to dinnertime and then just as I had given the “ten more minutes” call, she saw him — cruising about a yard from the bank, a twelve to fifteen-inch Largemouth Bass – the “Monster Fish”.
Much to my delight, my god-daughter, uncoached by me, made a perfect cast in front of the Bass, using the Barbie pole.
Now, I would like to say that the Bass hit the bait and we landed it for a grand photo-op that would provide Christmas portraits for the grandparents, but it was not to be.
Instead, the fish rushed the perfectly presented offering, bumped it and then swam off.
You’ve heard of the expression, “jaw-dropping”? Well, it’s true. I saw a seven-year old do it, though I did not expect it to be followed by a squeal of delight.
So, although we did not bag the “monster fish”, we did stand and stare him in the eye… and he blinked first.
And as I drove home, with a certain someone chatting happily and animatedly in the back seat, I felt completely refreshed.
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