We hadn’t planned on going fishing. There were a few too many things that needed doing and too few hours to do them but then my God-daughter walked into the house with her pink Barbie pole sticking out of a pink tote bag.
She set the bag at my feet and confidently told her mom and dad, “Uncle Dan can fix it.”
I glanced in the bag and saw that the all-in-one pole/reel combo was in several pieces. Closer inspection though, showed that nothing was broken, only disassembled.
“Lily did it!”
“Doesn’t matter…I’ve seen worse… Give me a few minutes.”
Sure enough, within a few minutes I was casting the rubber, fish-shaped plug that came with the pole across the living room at the cat, much to my God-daughter’s delight and my wife’s consternation.
Suddenly certain things seemed far less important than trying out the refurbished pole.
So, while Abby and her Dad piled into the back seat of the Toyota, Sean (who along with his wife had joined us all for lunch) and I loaded up our gear and weighed our options as to where we ought to go. We decided that Laguna Lake Park would be the likeliest place to hook a few Bluegill and maybe some Green Sunfish with the Barbie pole while offering the possibility of tying onto something a little more challenging with our fly rods.
Thirty minutes later I was tying up a size 18 ant imitation about ten inches below a bubble float on the Barbie pole and giving a quick casting refresher before turning little fisher-girl loose. Sean and I stationed her at a spot on the shore between us while fishing license-less Dad took up a coaching position on a nearby bench. In retrospect, it must have looked like a seven–year old princess was on an outing with her bodyguards.
Now, during the car ride over to the lake, Sean and I had felt pretty confident that we could arrange it so that she would catch a fish. But once we were there…doubt reared its ugly head as several casts later Abby was still fish-less and her enthusiasm flagging.
Fortunately about that time, Sean hooked up on a Bluegill, sending a certain someone into squeals of delight. Of course, Abby thought it was hilarious that a grown man would break out in squeals of delight over a four-inch long fish so she too began to laugh and her enthusiasm returned.
Taking advantage of the change in mood, I decided to up the odds by switching her rig to a size 22 black midge suspended about five inches below the float and have her fish it about two feet from the shoreline.
That was the magic formula. Within two minutes we watched the bobber dip and the line go taunt.
Now, there is probably a certain amount of confidence that is gained by being seven years old and having three burly guys who would lay down their lives for you standing there yelling encouragement as you bring in your first fish but whatever the case, my god-daughter responded to the tug on the line and landed her first Bluegill single-handedly.
The reality of the moment was that in her surprise she raised her arms in the air and fairly yanked the fish out of the water. Still, she did it all on her own and the moment was not going to pass without great fanfare and admiration.
Remember, we want the girl to LIKE fishing.
The other folks on the lake were surely amused as the three of us high-fived each other, high-fived Abby, whipped out our cell phones and snapped historic photos that were making there way back home to Mom before that poor little bluegill even knew what hit him.
Of course, it is one thing to land a fish but it is entirely another thing getting it off the hook. My God-daughter is competitive and adventurous but she is still all little girl, so despite our combined coaching, she simply would not touch the squirming ‘gill on the end of the line. That is a job strictly relegated to Poppa and /or Uncle Dan.
Eventually the hapless fish earned its freedom and the little midge imitation went back into the water.
Two more fish fell to the Barbie pole get up.
All was going smoothly until a blood-curdling scream pierced the late afternoon air. My God-daughter had got her first fish that day, now she was experiencing her first hook in the finger.
Sean immediately went into 911 mode and (I’m quite certain) ran on water in an effort to reach Abby while her Dad charged in from the other direction. I happened to be standing next to her and grabbed the line to take tension off the hook, which then simply fell away from her finger (remember it was a size 22 midge).
Though the wound was minor and bloodless, an appropriate amount of attention was made over it before we tried to resume fishing. Abby declared loudly and forcefully that she wanted nothing more to do with fishing and tried to give the pole to her Dad who, in a moment of great Fatherly wisdom said, “Hey, get back on the horse.” — which is one of the reasons I love the guy so much.
So after a few moments of stares and looks and body language that only a father and daughter can understand, (and during which Sean and I quietly moved away,) the little fisher-girl was back in the saddle, so to speak.
Two Bluegill later, the “Great Hooking Incident” was all but forgotten and order was restored in the universe.
By the time we were ready to leave the park, Abby could claim five fish to her tally. The conversation focused on the catching and naming of the fish we had caught and who had caught the most and the biggest but nary a mention was made about getting snagged – priorities are in fact learned young. Likewise, the car ride home, as in our previous adventure, was a non-stop chatter-fest about the great adventure of the day – and indeed it had been.
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