January 22, 2011
Raising Sons and Fishermen
When my boys had both learned the art of walking, I began to teach them the art of fishing. I'd block off a whole afternoon for this activity, as taking a 2- and 4-year old fishing could take from one to seven hours, depending. As boys go, their attention span was like that of a comet: here, then gone. But I was not deterred. I knew this lengthy and messy endeavor was an important use of my time.
Boys are awesome. Mine had no hang-ups about getting dirty or tromping through stickers in persuit of slimy, smelly brim or bass. They loved mechanical things, and sharp things, and dangerous things. They'd rather muck about in the woods than watch TV. Teaching them about being in the wild was a big part of raising them up. My only concern in taking them fishing was keeping them from hooking themselves, eachother, or me... Needless to say, they hooked a lot of trees, limbs, leaves, and logs. But, I told myself, lures are cheap. Emergency rooms are not. Go ahead and lose the lures. And besides, the costs of those lessons were far eclipsed by the lessons learned.
We started out on Hodgeson's pond. The Hodgeson's did not own this tiny pond, but since we tromped through their place to get there, and since Mrs. Hodgeson gave the boys cookies upon return, it was and will forever be 'Hodgeson's Pond.'
The pond is full of hungry brim, bass, and frogs, all of which scattered upon our arrival because the boys were, as boys are, very loud. And they liked to throw stuff in the pond. It was only many years later that they developed the art of stalking. In the early years, it was more of an assault by flying rocks, sticks, stones, and dog toys. (Donated unknowingly by the Hodgeson's dogs.) We'd come armed with worms, of course, but the boys found more pleasure in ambushing frogs and skimmers with branches and clods of mud. They had little patience for watching a bobber.
Years passed and we kept trekking to Hodgeson's Pond, with worms and gear, and food and drinks and Beanie Babies. The boys learned how to bait a hook, cast, watch the bobber, strike, reel, and take a Bluegill off. I taught them the importance of respect. "This lovely fish is here in our hands and it can't breathe. Admire it, kiss it and let it go." And they did.
Later still, I graduated them to the joys of saltwater fishing. This opened a whole new world for them. But, they had the foundation and became able marine fishermen. Yes, I still had to pack the gear, and the bug spray, and the snacks, and the bait. Just like fishing the pond, fishing the marsh creeks and island points was a lot of work for me, but a lot of fun for them.
During our first summer on Bald Head Island, I'd pack all the gear, slather the boys in sunscreen and bug spray, and we'd head out over the dunes. It was a good half-mile walk to the Cape. I'd drag all the gear behind me on boogie boards while the kids romped in the surf. Finally, at the Cape, we'd set up shop. The rods dwarfed them, but these little boys had no fear. I'd rig them up with the warning, "Watch your back-cast!", and away they went. Sharks, Kingfish, stingrays, searobins. They caught it all, and they knew how to handle the catch - mostly! There was an occasional stick or sting, but we all survived and thrived and fished some more.
Since then I've taken them fishing inshore, offshore, Bahamas, Outer Banks, Maine... and our usual local spots like the James and Rappidan Rivers. Yes, they still like to throw rocks. But they also know, really know, how to fish.
Now my boys are grown. My younger son turned 18 today. That's him up top with 'Mr. Fish' in his hands. We still go fishing together, when he is home from school, or when we make our yearly pilgrimage to Ocracoke. And I am proud to say he can now outfish me - when he wants to.
Raising sons is work. Raising them well is a lot of work. But it's work worth doing. Heck, ya might even get a fishing buddy in the bargain.