A Child’s First Fish

“You can give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life”, words spoken by 7th century BC philosopher Kwan Tzu. This is truly one of my favorite quotes and one that I refer to each day while teaching teens here at Edgewood High School. It simply does no good to give people materials without teaching them how to use or make themselves better.

Such is the case with fishing. It is no secret how I feel about fishing. It is not an easy sport in that it takes discipline to become better than the average bear. One must get up early and go often…and then on some days it helps a lot to be a little lucky…but someone has to first introduce a person to fishing; folks don’t just go on their own, they get a start from that special person who takes the time to give up their own time and possibly their own sanity.

This summer I witnessed an amazing sight while fishing on Beaver Lake in Arkansas; I was kicking around in my float tube feverishly hunting for a big brown trout and heard a ‘little’ voice piercing through the fog. At first I really wasn’t sure what it was I was hearing…but as the distance narrowed I could tell it was a little girl; she was asking one question after another. Then it appeared…a super dad, he had 5 kids on various rocks, all with Zebco reels, all fishing at the same time. The smallest child reminded me of Cindy Lou Who and she was the one with all the questions. The 5 kids ranged in age from little Cindy at about 4 or 5 to the oldest brother that was probably 12. The rocks the kids were fishing on were massive and each kid was casting and retrieving and casting and retrieving. It was obvious that super dad also wanted to fish…but in the 10 minutes or so that I was close enough to watch, he went from kid to kid to kid, helping, supporting and encouraging. He did so with a kind and patient voice and for the life of me….I don’t know how he kept his wits.

I was mesmerized by the scene and could tell at one point  dad had all the kids squared away and he had went over to the pile of tackle boxes, grabbed his own rod, made a few steps towards the water when youngest son caught next oldest son’s line on his back cast and a small rhubarb between the boys developed. While I was grinning on the outside I was crying on the inside for dad…who placed his rod down, calmed the waters and proceeded to untangle the mess. During the entire time I never saw super dad cast his own rod…but he certainly got my award for fisherman of the year!

“Fishing is our handshake, our language. A heritage that binds us together. A passage our fathers took. A journey that lasts a lifetime, that we have begun again with our sons and daughters”. This anonymous quote could be my mantra…if we all passed along the patience of fishing to our kids…how much better off would the world be?

The photo above is a very special one. It was taken this summer while fishing on Kuhn Lake in Kosciusko County in Indiana and is of Miley, the grand daughter of a good friend of mine, her proud grandpa, Bill. Miley got her start fishing, along with older sister Mia, when her dad Zach bought them a rod and reel…then took them fishing. I am not sure Zach knew it at the time, but he changed the lives of a couple of sweet little girls. The time together, fishing with a parent, is time put into the trust bank; kids learn to ‘trust’ their parents and this trust goes a long way later in life when mom and dad need to be able to once again ‘trust’ their kids.

If you are looking for a great time…take a kid fishing; watch as their eyes light up when that bobber goes a bouncing. Take time to notice how tall and confident they look when they come walking into the campground with a stringer of trout on their hip. Maybe, just maybe, someday down the road, they will come and get you…and take you fishing; all while we Enjoy the Great Outdoors.

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