I took my boys fishing this weekend. It wasn’t the first time, but it might be the last. It finally occurred to me why it’s traditionally the grandfather who takes the kids fishing.
I'm their dad. I'm the one that had to pry them out of bed with a crowbar before the sun came up. I'm the one who had to hear them complain about their pants being the wrong ones, and how disappointing it was that we didn’t have the right kind of breakfast cereal. I'm the one who had to hear them griping in the car and fighting with each other. I was already sick of hearing from them before we even got to the lake. Now we're going to commence with a sport that can frustrate even the most patient of men? And we're asking single digit-aged boys to do it? None of my kids have even a measurable ounce of patience, and two out of the three have the attention spans of a gnat on crack. The other one – the one that can really concentrate – has the attention span of a clean and sober gnat.
I’m really not even sure why we take kids fishing in the first place. It is completely unnatural. Here, kid, hold this long, flexible, whippy pole with this amazing spinning contraption that has the inviting crank handle attached to it. Now just sit there keeping the rod perfectly still and don’t turn the handle. You might as well give them bottle rockets stuck in an ice cream sundae, hand them spoons and a book of matches, and expect absolutely nothing to happen.
I would cast it out, hand them the pole, and say, “Just leave it out there,” then turn around to help one of their brothers with his pole. Before I got two steps away I would hear, “Dad, it’s back. I need more bait and I need you to cast it.”
I finally just gave up because I couldn’t think of any other ways of saying, “Stop reeling it in. Leave it alone.” I even tried Spanish in case they were bilingual and didn’t tell us.
Worse than the constant re-baiting and re-casting is dealing with the headstrong boy who is determined to cast the rod himself. I think hell might be a place where you are constantly baiting and casting rods for two small boys who can’t physically stop themselves from reeling, even under threat of death, in between unsnarling a rat’s nest of fishing line from a reel being operated by a boy who does not yet possess the motor skills, coordination, or willingness to even tie his own shoes. As all three boys complain that fishing is no fun. In the hot sun. With bugs.
At one point, my son handed me a pole that had a knotted ball of fishing line the size of a bath sponge hanging under the reel. He had actually managed to lodge some of the line back up inside the reel, but from the bottom, so it was disappearing up into the microscopic circular gap between the stationary part and the spinning part. I don’t even know how that is possible. When I asked him, “Why didn’t you stop long before it looked like this?” he answered, “I was trying to fix it.”
Added to all that, we had casting over each other’s lines, leaving the cap off the salmon eggs and spilling half the jar into the dirt and grass, walking in front of each other and snarling one boy’s fishing line around the other boy’s pole and neck, and my personal favorite, having a boy trip over the pole that I happen to be baiting, and yanking the small, barbed hook deep into my index finger. A pair of pliers and a few curse words later, and I had about had it.
The grandpas tend to handle that kind of stuff better. They didn’t start out annoyed, so they can take more of it in stride. They are older and more patient, and invariably wiser.
For instance, they bring the right kind of bait.
I was fed up with the whining, and all the mechanics of baiting, casting, and unsnarling, but mostly I was fed up with not catching anything. Needing a little break, I made a short trip down to the general store and bought a Styrofoam cup of worms. We made the switch from salmon eggs to worms, and almost could not keep the fish off the hooks after that. I made the first cast out, and had a fish on before I could even hand the pole to my son. The day improved drastically from there.
Sure, I still had to do a lot of baiting, casting, and unsnarling, but it turns out it’s not as bad when the kids aren’t complaining while you’re doing it. Apparently, it’s the catching fish part that is fun for the kids. Who knew? I always thought it was the sitting in a lawn chair drinking beer part that made fishing fun, but now that I think about it, kids don’t get to do that, so actually catching fish really improves their mood.
Grandpas already know all that, because they went through all this already. Grandpas are smart, and they have more free time. They do recon ahead of time, when they get to sit in the lawn chair and drink beer, and figure out which bait works. Then they take the kids and actually catch fish.
See you soon,
Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen
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