Never underestimate how closely you are being watched.
That warning is especially true if kids are around. Sure, they might not LOOK like they are paying attention, but you had better quickly drop any misguided illusions that they aren’t.
If you’re doubtful, try this little experiment: Say something derogatory about something like a particular brand of product when the kids are within earshot and then go shopping with them.
Deliberately put the aforementioned item in your shopping cart and watch what happens.
You are being watched.
Now, the upshot to this is that through careful mentoring and guidance, you can instill your love of the outdoors and fishing and such into those same malleable kids who would unwittingly pass along any disparaging remarks you made about the neighbor during dinner one night to that very same neighbor during your annual summer block party.
Since you are being watched, I say – use it to your advantage
Case in point: our God-daughter has heard me talk long and lovingly about fishing since she was old enough to understand the meaning of the word. By carefully encouraging her and coaching her on the virtues of fishing (there are some!) she naturally now wants to go fishing with her Uncle Dan. I have even given her a pink Barbie pole and tackle box just to let her know that fishing can be chic and stylish. I carefully and deliberately model my behavior and speak enthusiastically about the “benefits” of things like hooking yourself, and getting spined and stepping in duck droppings and using porta-potties that are long overdue for emptying and…well, you get the picture and, as far as my God-daughter is concerned, all those things are part of fishing and are somehow part of the fun – though sometimes she is not quite sure if I truly understand the definition of “fun”.
Nevertheless, she likes fishing and always wants to know if I still like fishing even after a fishless expedition.
I know I am being watched.
So a couple of weekends ago, I had an opportunity to once again expand my God-daughter’s idea of what constitutes “fun” when it comes to fishing.
Through a series of convoluted scheduling changes I was able to spend the afternoon at Downey Wilderness Park with her and our fishing gear. I hadn’t read of any recent fish plants so I knew the odds of actually catching anything there were already pretty slim but it was the place with the easiest access within the time frame we had.
With this information already in the back of my mind, I decided to put the emphasis on technique and style. I rigged her pole with a fairly heavy egg sinker and I let her pick the color of Power Bait (despite my dislike of bait-fishing). We settled on neon green which I dubbed “booger bait” much to my protégé’s delight. I baited her hook, pretended to lick the leftover “booger bait” from my fingers, again to her delight and disgust, then reviewed proper casting technique and finally just let her go for it.
Sure enough her first cast sailed halfway across the narrow section of the pond I had deliberately chosen and her confidence level soared. Anyone within earshot surely heard how amazing that first cast was. Then, after untangling the ensuing birds-nest and re-reviewing the intricacies of spinning reels in kidspeak, I set up shop next to her.
I intentionally choose the fly reel with yellow floating line and tied on a big, gaudy dry fly despite the slim chances of anything actually making a surface hit. I then made sure to make my first cast near to her line so that she could immediately brag that her casts were farther and better than mine.
Everything was going pretty much according to plan…then the mosquito fish showed up.
Now, I should have remembered from previous trips that in the eyes of a seven-year old, fish of any size are likely targets. So when a swarm of mosquito fish hustled up to the bank in front of us in the hopes of picking up some scraps of our lunch, suddenly the objects of our pursuit seemed all the more real and attainable – so real, in fact that the bait on the end of a certain Barbie pole rig lost some of its appeal and catching mosquito fish grew in importance.
So much so, that a certain young fisher-girl raced excitedly up and down the bank shouting out questions about mosquito fish as they alternately fled and followed her.
I answered a multitude of questions about mosquito fish. More questions than I knew I could be asked about mosquito fish. I made mosquito fish sound like the absolute best harbingers of big fish that one could come across.
And then it happened.
In the excitement of the moment, a certain young fisher-girl misjudged the uneven terrain between grass and concrete and within a split second was suddenly sitting in six inches of lake water.
The look that followed was a mixture of shock, mild fear, a little pain and embarrassment. I knew that I had to think up a positive spin on the situation and I had to think one up quick.
I knew that she wasn’t hurt and I knew from the way she was sitting that she wasn’t in any danger but I also knew that I only had one chance to save seven years of careful and deliberate work.
“Oh my gosh!” I blurted out. “ You did it. You actually did it. And year’s ahead of schedule even.”
The change in facial expression from near tears to puzzlement told me my ploy was working.
“You have accomplished in one afternoon what it takes some fisher-folk decades to do.”
“What did I do?” She asked with a slight whine and a little tremble in her voice while climbing slowly out of the water.
“You have learned the all-time greatest secret of fishing.”
“I fell in the water and got my shoes wet and my pants are dirty and …”
“Shhh.” I hissed, with a silencing wave of my arms and furtive glances about, “Don’t say another word or you’ll reverse everything. This is great! This is newsworthy. This is a proud day in fishing history. Come over here and I’ll take off your shoes in the special way so we don’t waste what just happened.”
Intrigued, my soggy fishing buddy dutifully squished her way over to me. Kneeling down, I gently removed one shoe, held it up ceremoniously and poured out the collected water from inside. I then did the same with the other shoe and also with each sock.
“You have now entered the Society of Tried and True Fisher-folk. Fish will forevermore fear you and your trusty Fishing Pole of Victory. You came to the park today thinking we were just going to have some fun, but you leave a full-fledged fisher-women. Congratulations.”
The smile on her face spoke volumes. Her posture straightened, her head lifted, her eyes sparkled. Her soggy pants didn’t seem to matter quite so much.
“Can we tell Mama? Can we tell Papa?”
“Oh, absolutely. In fact, we must tell them and we must document this great day with pictures. Go stand by your tackle box.”
And just as quickly as it began, the crisis was averted and we ended up spending another hour pleasantly moving around the lake chasing the ever elusive “monster fish that lurks in every pond where mosquito fish are found”.
Yes, you are being watched and if there is any lesson at all to this little story it is that we veteran fisher-folk can model positive behaviors and help the next generation (one that is generally becoming less and less attuned to the realm of nature that we so much enjoy) develop a keener, finer sense of the great outdoors…and maybe a sense of humor to boot.
However, should you doubt the conclusions drawn from this episode, Let me offer you a little proof from the other day: Just two weeks after the great “splash down”, my God-daughter enthusiastically invited herself to accompany me and my fishin’ buddy, Sean on an impromptu afternoon getaway at a local lake.
Once we arrived at our chosen lake, she happily cast away between us as we worked our way around the perimeter, never once shying away from the water’s edge. She even agreed to pose for a picture while lipping one of the small Bass Sean managed to pull out with one of his custom shrimp flies.
The three of us had a great summer afternoon enjoying the sun, the sounds of ducks and kids, the sparkle of the water and the occasional zing of a tightening line.
Yeah, I am being watched and hopefully I am making it clear that I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.
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