“Time to get up, Collin.”
I sat next to my nephew at 6 a.m. last Friday morning, expecting a battle.
But Collin popped out of bed like a piece of toast. He was wide awake before his feet hit the floor.
|Collin and his lunker|
Fishing will do that to a boy age seven.
It hadn’t been quite so easy for the 46-year-old. I spent 15 minutes getting out of bed and opening my eyes (in that order), then getting dressed and climbing up to the loft to wake Collin.
“Look at the loons,” Collin said when we stepped out of the cabin. Seven loons were paddling side by side across the middle of the lake. They looked like they were practicing for the Aquatennial Parade.
We got in the boat and headed for our hot spot, which is usually luke-warm at best. Collin asked if he could steer the boat. But it was too early for that. My eyes weren’t open all the way yet. “Later,” I promised.
I eased the 14-foot boat through a narrow channel and into a smaller lake. We drifted with the current, and started casting our jigs.
Collin caught the first keeper, a crappie about a pound in size. I put it on the stringer. Collin watched in admiration. He doesn’t like to touch fish. Then he caught a small bass. I took it off the hook for him.
I didn’t have to lecture Collin about how he had to learn to take off fish if he wanted to be a real fisherman. For one thing, my son, age 17, had ridden him pretty hard about it all week. (This is the same son who wouldn’t wake up when Collin had jumped out of bed.)
|Collin and David, fishing buddies, swimming buddies, just good buddies.|
We left the spot after an hour and headed for another place that Collin had “heard about.” Already he is spreading gossip about where the fish are biting. That’s the sign of a true fisherman! It was a half mile away, which Collin also figured into the equation, because it gave him a chance to steer the boat. He knew I would say yes this time.
I was finally awake, and the lake was glass, so I scooted over and he took the throttle of the seven horse Mercury, and we made our way, although not in a straight line, to the next little lake.
Collin had lost his red jig, which he felt bad about, because it had caught a few fish and he thought it was lucky. “Do you have a white lure with red eyes?” Collin asked. “Uncle Mike lost a big walleye with a lure like that.”
“Yeah, it’s called a Red-Eye,” I said, taking one out and showing it to him. That was the one. I hooked it onto his leader. We started casting.
“There’s no fish in this lake,” Collin said, and not more than three seconds later, he had a strike.
Collin’s rod bent over. He reeled in steadily, with only a word of age-old advice from me: Keep your rod tip up. Is there anything finer than watching a kid reel in a nice fish?
He brought it to the side of the boat, and I lifted it in. It was a largemouth bass, about 14 inches long.
That was a lunker for the lake we were on. “Can we keep it?” he asked.
“Let’s take it back and show everybody,” I stalled.
We fished a little longer. On almost every cast, Collin said, “There’s no fish in this lake.” But that trick usually only works once.
Collin steered us back to the cabin, then jumped out of the boat with the fish almost as quickly as he had jumped out of bed. He showed his mom and dad and sister and cousin and aunt. He let everyone know how he had out-fished Uncle David. That didn’t bother me. It was a win-win situation, in today’s parlance.
We took the bass back to the lake. I had broken the news that this bass wasn’t quite big enough for a respectable fisherman to keep. I pulled out the stringer, and laid the fish in the water. I held it by the tail and pulled it back and forth, until its gills were working hard. Then we watched it swim off beneath the dock. That’s a good feeling, watching a fish swim away, to be caught another day:
I cleaned the crappie. Collin watched. It’s another fishing skill he will soon master. We ate it for breakfast. It tasted great!