The best laid plans of mice and Dads….
The boys and I had planned to go fishing today at the same place I fished on Monday and Tuesday. I had scouted it out, found a good spot, and tried out some techniques that gave them a good chance of hooking a trout or two, I thought. I had visions of posting video of them reeling in trout.
Well, today at school Isaiah invited his friend Smith (that’s his first name) to come along, so Smith came home on the bus with him. So there he is. Then when Jeremiah’s friend Ian shows up at the door to play like he does almost every day, Jeremiah invited him, too. The first I knew of that, Ian had already run home across the pasture and brought back his rod and tackle box and was wired to go.
"Just say, No." Right? Well, no.
I’m an optimist. I thought we could figure something out to make everyone happy. Even me.
So we loaded up. Here are the five of us ready to venture forth. (Yes, five. I realized when I got this on my computer that I’m reflected in the window behind Jeremiah.)
So far so good. Even though Jeremiah and Ian had to ride in the back. Actually, they were happy that they had to ride in the back. We tooled into town, having seen a big plume of smoke from an unusual early season fire way up on a mountain to the north. Maybe I should have taken that as an omen.
We stopped to buy some worms. Because of differences in fishing preferences and equipment, this would be a "one from Column A, one from Column B…" kind of trip. I think Jeremiah and Ian are naming them. Either that, or telling them in vivid detail what was going to happen to them.
We stopped on the way at our friend Ben’s house. He has some apple trees, and has given our family a whole tree. Goldens. My favorite. All we have to do is care for it through the year and the fruit is ours for the picking. It’s past due for pruning, so part of the original plan was for the boys and I to do that chore before going on to fish. With the pickup load full, I stopped to say we’d skip it this afternoon.
I also needed to ask if he had an old rod Ian could use, since the one Ian brought turned out to have next to no line, and wouldn’t cast. So Ben went out back and looked through an old camper and found one. In there were these beautiful old rods and reels, still in use, but probably older than I am, or close to it. Ben remembers them from his childhood, and he’s pushing 70 if he hasn’t already passed it. The middle one was Ben’s Granddad’s, what Ben called his "stream pole."
Back to the urgency of the now, the insistence of the young. I had come up with a new plan, one with which all hands agreed. Ian and Jeremiah would bank fish with worms while I took Isaiah and Smith out in the canoe to hang a nymph from a bob–strike indicator. Then they’d switch. And everybody would catch fish, and everybody would be happy. Ian had brought three plastic shopping sacks to put all his fish in.
So I got the younger boys all rigged up. I could tell right away from reading this subtle body language that we might be having a problem.
I went back to the bigger boys and we got the canoe off the truck and began loading some gear. We hadn’t even launched when the two younger boys came straggling back around the trees with all their gear and said, "There aren’t any fish there!" And their lines were completely tangled and snarled–together.
I’m telling you, this is some kind of miracle, although I have seen it now many times. I do not understand how such intricate tangles can happen so quickly unless by divine intervention. The only thing I can figure out is that it’s some form of penance for my past sins.
Meanwhile there had been two other major negative developments. Two flyfishermen had come in just before us and launched their fancy-schmancy pontoons and were fishing in the exact area I had been counting on for the boys. And, the wind began to blow a gale straight in toward the launch.
So we had a council of war, and the younger boys agreed to stay out of trouble for awhile and wait for their turn in the canoe.
And you know what? The big boys and I went out, and we survived. They barely fished in that hectic ten minutes as I fought the gale, my only weapon one thin paddle. They really couldn’t cast without a wind, let alone with this one, and they’d get the fly stuck in their hand or the line tangled around the paddle, or my head, so I’d stop to help and the wind would push us into the willows, and then I’d have to paddle like crazy to get us on our way again before the next thing I’d have to stop and help with. When all was said and done they had only managed to troll with a big dry and nymph dropper, hardly the recommended combination of flies and technique. They may have been the first ever to try that.
A picture was out of the question, alas.
Meanwhile I had been managing to ignore the sounds of Ian and Jeremiah rooting through the brush and finding beer bottles to drop in the irrigation channel that flows into the lake. And we had also managed to mostly stay out of the way of the hoity toity flyfishermen with their thousand dollar rods and elitist attitudes.
One of them had rowed back to the launch to get them a couple beers–micro-brews–and was rowing back out as we guided the canoe in to a safe landing. Ian came running up with his rod–untangled!–and said, that nice man had helped them untangle them. Whaddaya know. (What, is he nuts?)
Then, you know what? I took the younger boys out in the canoe, too. No fishing this time, but a fast trip over the bounding main. And then back safe and dry once again.
There was another omen on that little circuit: a trout launched himself out of the water right in front of Jeremiah. His eyes popped out and he couldn’t get over it for a few minutes. And it was the first thing he told Isaiah and Smith about when we got back to the truck. That’s the kind of mental image that begins to beckon one back.
Well, we got everything and everybody back in and on the truck ready for the trip home. The worms? We’d used exactly one half of one. So we set the rest free.
On the way home, the fire looked under control, and all the boys seemed to have had a smashing good time, in spite of not really fishing at all on our big "fishing trip." And though my expectations had been throughly thwarted I had to reluctantly agree that it had been a satisfying adventure. The videos can wait. We agreed that we would do it again, if the weather was good–
On two separate occasions, two boys at a time.