Outdoors: Enjoying a yearly father/son fishing trip

I fish about 100 days a year. My 26 year old son, Fred, who is not exactly a chip off the old block, fishes just one, which this year was last Saturday.

Fred, who lives in Ames with his wife and year-old son, says it’s all about spending quality time with me — a concept he impressed upon me 24 years ago when he uncharacteristically asked a succession of unanswerable childish questions while I was drinking my morning coffee and reading The Gazette. Finally, a trace of annoyance in my voice, I asked, why all the stupid questions, Fred?

“I just want to talk with you, Dad,” the 2-year-old Fred said, teaching me probably the most important and memorable lesson of my life.

Despite my parental shortcomings — my inability, for example, to steer him toward wholesome outdoor pursuits and away from computer games and movies starring comic book heroes — I know that he takes after me in at least one important respect: When he goes fishing, he wants to catch fish.

He told me so a year ago when we caught very few during a walk-in excursion to one of my favorite holes.

As our annual outing approached, I worried that I would again fail as a guide, that Fred would have a boring day and be even less inclined in the future to go fishing with the old man.

This year, to increase our odds, I recruited my friend Mike Jacobs of Monticello to bring his fleet of mini-pontoon boats for a four-mile, eight-hour float through several likely stretches of the Wapsipinicon River.

We kicked off the extravaganza at 12:30 p.m. under a bright midday sun that seemed unconducive to fish catching.

Before I could even begin to fret, however, Fred hooked the first of the more than two dozen smallmouth bass he would catch that day.

From my vantage about 40 yards downstream, he seemed to be taking an inordinate amount of time to land the fish, and I made a mental note to offer at some more opportune moment a bit of coaching — crank a little faster there, son.

Then the reason for his deliberate pace became apparent when the fish on his line burst from the water in a shower of spray and re-entered with a resounding splat.

Fred gradually coaxed it to a sandbar where he landed the green-golden 18-incher that was not only the biggest bass he’d ever caught but would also prove to be the largest of the approximately 75 bass the three of us would catch that day.

While Mike and I oohed and aahed, my son nonchalantly released the fish, which took with it to the depths my last worry that Fred would not enjoy the day.

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