Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Trip to the Fishin' Hole

Last weekend, I took my boys, William and Carson, fishing for the first time. I’m not an accomplished fisherman. Most of the time, when I go on a fishing expedition, I return with little more than a few “the one that got away” stories and a bucket full of worms still grieving the fact that their brave comrades died in vain.
Still, I wanted to take my boys fishing.

So, last Friday, I loaded up my van and took William and Carson on a “guys’ weekend” to the North Carolina mountains. We stayed with my mom and dad, giving the grandparents some quality grandkid time. At night we’d sit around the cabin. As the grown-ups talked, William and Carson spent their time playing with the numerous toys Ma Ma and Pa Pa always keep on hand for them and begging Pa Pa to tell them stories about when he was a little boy.

During the day, while Ma Ma stayed back at the house, Pa Pa, the boys, and I would head out to tackle some nearby adventure. On Friday night we rode Pa Pa’s Gator up trails and around the mountain. On Saturday, we inner-tubed a portion of the New River that flows right by my parent’s property. Then, on Sunday, we loaded up the crew and drove an hour to Linville, NC, where my dad knew of a stocked trout pond.

Of course, a true fisherman is likely to scoff at the notion of fishing in a stocked pond. But keep in mind, my ultimate goal was to insure that my sons’ first taste of fishing was a successful one. They didn’t need to know that the game was fixed, I just wanted them to enjoy the thrill of pulling a fish out of the water.

We arrived just before noon. Already the sun was reaching its peak and beginning to beat down relentlessly. We doused ourselves in sunscreen, the boys donned their Spider-Man sunglasses, and we headed for the fishin’ hole. After grabbing a couple of miniature poles that seemed good fits for my sons, a bucket to hold the fish, a net, and some bait, we headed for the closest pond.

Looking into the shallow water, I could see that we were dealing with some sizeable trout. Part of me wondered if my boys would even be able to reel in such large fish. “Not a problem,” I thought, “Pa Pa and I are here to help.” I couldn’t wait to get the hooks in the water, hand off the poles to my sons, and enjoy watching the excitement on their faces as they landed their first fish.

Of course, one of the things you learn early on as a parent is that, while imagination is busy putting the finishing touches on your perfect plans, pending reality is often lurking somewhere in the background, laughing at you hysterically, and thinking to itself, "What an idiot!" No sooner had we taken up our position by the pond to cast our lines then William, my older son, suddenly became seized with horror. He’d seen one or two people pulling fish from the water as we made our way to the pond. The size of the trout coupled with their mad flailing was enough to make him fearful of these freshwater “monsters.” Taking his cue from his older brother, Carson also panicked and decided he wanted no part of this wildlife adventure.

And so, after days of exhibiting nothing but joyous anticipation regarding their first fishing trip, William and Carson refused to touch the fishing poles. Instead, what was meant to be their fishing expedition turned into me and my dad standing on the side of the pond casting Fisher-Price-sized fishing poles and trying to catch trout. Dad caught three large fish. I caught one and had one slip off my hook before I could get it in the net. William eventually did take the pole for a little while and rejoiced triumphantly when he managed to catch some moss. (Eat your heart out Captain Ahab.)

The funniest moment of the day came after my father had just caught his second fish. He unhooked what was the day’s largest catch and placed it in the bucket. Cautiously, but driven by curiosity, William and Carson approached to grab an up-close look at the large fish. No sooner had the two of them leaned their faces over to see Pa Pa’s latest capture, then that fish flopped up into the air, flailing wildly and almost flying out of the bucket. Terrified and no doubt seeing their short lives flash before their eyes, my boys unleashed screams that I’m sure echoed throughout the southern Appalachians. Startled, I turned from watching my fishing line to see William and Carson rushing for me in tears and yelling, “Daddy, Daddy, that fish was gonna eat us!”

No, it wasn’t the fishing outing I'd quite envisioned, but it was still a fun day and a great memory. Next year, maybe the boys will be up for casting a line, secure in the knowledge that trout are not flesh eaters. Oh well, good fishin’ or not, nothing beats time with my boys. To any dad who has a son, I would highly recommend taking a "guys' weekend." And, if you get a chance, hit a fishin’ hole.

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