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OUTDOORS COLUMN: Young anglers know how to cope

Herald Outdoors Columnist

Herald Outdoors Columnist

My contemporaries (folks in their fifties and sixties) often sigh and wistfully say how nice it would be if they were once again children. Truth be known, I’ve occasionally expressed the same wishful thought myself.

Generally, however, I find myself pretty content with my present stage of life. Maturity isn’t such a bad thing after all. I’m reasonably satisfied with my chronological position these days. My place on the timeline, if you will.

Still, there are times when I think, if only fleetingly, that being a kid again would be quite advantageous. These thoughtful reveries occur most often on days I am fishing and not catching fish. These summer doldrums and often fishless days lend themselves very well to such thoughts.

Grownup anglers, you see, just don’t know how to cope with the phenomenon of piscatorial “lockjaw.” If the fish aren’t biting, we fret, fume, cuss, bellyache and walk around for days afterward with that old pooch-lipped expression on our faces. Not so with children. Little fishermen adroitly make the best of bad situations.

Four-year-old Josh, for example, while fishing with his dad, had little trouble finding alternative entertainment after he tired of trying to coax uncooperative bluegills onto his hook. He simply set his pole aside, picked up the cricket cage, and gleefully flung it into the pond, yelling, “Swim, bugs!” at the top of his lungs.

As the plastic-and-wire container slowly sank into the murky depths and Josh clapped his hands, Dad finally became aware of the fact that it was time to stop griping about the poor fishing and go home. Had he simply performed Josh’s feat himself an hour or so earlier, he’d have saved himself a lot of weeping, wailing and tooth-gnashing.

Likewise, Uncle George only made a fruitless outing worse when he vainly tried for three hours to entice the crappies into biting. He worked angrily and feverishly, experimenting with various depths and trolling speeds and tying on different jigs, spinners and spoons.

Meanwhile, young Jacob, George’s nephew, was unperturbed, happily working on a “crafts” project deep inside his uncle’s cavernous tackle box. When finished, he proudly displayed his work to the heretofore unaware adult.

“Look, Uncle George,” the boy said excitedly, “a chain!”

The kid extracted nearly five dozen bass plugs from the box, all hooked together end to end in train-like fashion, then dropped the “string” onto the boat deck when his uncle yelled in horror. The result was a gnarled ball of multicolored plastic and balsa wood held together by roughly 135 sharp treble hooks.

Uncle George, of course, could have easily “constructed” the same thing three hours earlier, gotten the mess untangled three hours sooner, with nary a thought to the fact the fish weren‘t biting. But, no. He’s a grownup. Such things are forbidden him.

When my son Kyle was just a wee-tot angler, he was fond of occupying himself on fishless days with “philosophical” questions directed at his father, who was, as a rule, selfishly lamenting his misfortune and uttering words wholly unfit for a little boy’s ears.

“Daddy, what kind of shells do shellcrackers crack? Do fish beds have pillows? Do fishes have necks? If fishes can’t close their eyes, how do they sleep? Why did you drop the motor in the lake? Why do worms taste like dirt? Do fishes take swimming lessons? Do catfishes purr? What is a dadblasted @#$%!?”

All questions worthy of serious discussion, exactly the kind of queries I spent hours contemplating as a prepubescent fisherman myself. Then I grew up and, by rule, couldn’t help my son figure them out. I was required to cuss and moan about the closed-mouthed redbreasts instead.

Reading back over all this, my eyes fall onto the word “maturity” in the second paragraph. My mother shall read that, shake her head and laugh uproariously. It wasn’t that long ago, you see, that she said to me, “Son, in nearly 61 years you have never grown up. All you did was get older.”

No, Mom, I did grow up. Really I did. But sometimes, in certain instances, I surely wish I hadn’t.

Like, why can’t gorging myself on RCs, Moon Pies, and Vyeenees still compensate for the bass not biting? And, woe is me, why did I forget to bring the Imodium?