As much as I like to catch fish myself, helping and watching a 6-year-old grandson do so is even more fun.
When introducing a child to fishing, of course, the lesson has less to do with angling techniques than with enjoyment of the experience, and in this brave new world of video arcades and computer games, that boils down to catching fish.
Toward that end we recently borrowed an hour on a friend’s private pond, which teems with big, hungry bluegills.
Michael Love of Ames was equipped with a 6-foot rod and a push-button Zebco spin-cast reel — the reel of choice for beginners since 1949, when the Zero Hour Bomb Company introduced a reel so foolproof it could be operated while wearing boxing gloves.
Michael’s rig consisted of a small wire hook upon which was threaded a red worm; just above it a small split shot to ensure rapid sinking; and, two feet above that, a red and white plastic bobber to suspend the bait off the bottom and to signal bites.
While Michael lacked pinpoint casting control, all his casts landed in the pond, which was close enough for the ravenous bluegills.
The hour we spent on the pond redefined “instant gratification,” with the lag between the bobber’s landing and its disappearance into the depths averaging no more than five seconds, barely time for me to offer my standard advice: “Stand by for action.”
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To magnify and prolong the battles, I had adjusted the drag on the reel to the lightest setting, but I need not have bothered. With their size, strength and pugnacity, the bluegills needed no special accommodations.
Eventually the resistance of Michael’s bowed, upraised rod overcame their feverish zigging and zagging, and he lifted the thrashing and splashing fish from the water.
Though Michael preferred not to handle the fish himself, he oversaw each release with solicitude for the bluegill’s health and well-being. We spent much more time releasing fish, with all the attendant high-fives and fist bumps, than we did catching them.
Michael inherited from me the counting gene, which enabled him to state with certainty after an hour that he had caught 23 bluegills.
With our grin muscles fatigued from all the exercise, we decided that was enough.
When he gets a little older, I’ll teach him fishing is not always that easy — I am an expert on that subject — but he does not need to know that yet.