What do you see when you look at this picture? A boy with a fish?
Maybe the vest that's about a dozen sizes too big? That big smile
might be the first thing you looked at. Then again, somebody's
going to complain that he isn't holding the fish right or that he's
holding it out of the water. I see something else.
When I look at that picture, I see an opportunity that didn't pass.
I see Dennis (that's his name) enjoying a day on the water with his
father (not pictured). I see a boy who learned to cast a fly before
he reached the ripe old age of seven. I see a smile that comes from
the heart of a boy who's spending the day with someone who cares.
Too many of the kids in this world are being lost to the streets,
drugs, and TV by non-caring parents. Too many kids are left to
their own resources when it comes to time and recreation
opportunities. Too many kids are just being lost.
I suppose our society is to blame for much of it. We are forced
to bring home more than one paycheck to make ends meet. Too many
homes are broken with the kids in the middle of a bad situation.
Living in this anti-everything society often leads our kids to
believe that outdoor recreation, especially if it involves
fishing or hunting, is somehow bad or evil. School teachers
often embrace and stress the idea that fishing and hunting
are bad. Some parents are so selfishly wrapped up in their
own lives and activities that the kids are discarded like
little munchkins who get in the way of their plans and desires.
Some kids never make it to birth, discarded before they even
have a chance to breathe air or cry.
As fly-fishermen, we often take this sport too seriously. We
get wrapped up in tying flies, building rods, the next big hatch
and even this site. We argue over the way a fly is tied, how
to set planing forms to match someone's taper, whether it's
better to fish dries or nymphs, how somebody wrote an article,
or anything else we don't fully agree with. We boast that we
only fish with flies, only cast upstream, always release our
catch, and always use barbless hooks hoping that will make us
look better in the eyes of other critical people. We do this
while our kids are playing video games or watching TV or out
on the streets.
Many of our group would never think of putting a worm on a hook,
suspending it from a bobber and teaching our kids how to catch
a bluegill. To many people who boast flyfishing as their hobby,
bait is thought to be unethical. Others feel that killing a fish
is somehow unethical or bad. We've made our own laws, our own
taboos, our own rules of behavior, and sometimes those rules
exclude our kids from the game.
Many of our kids, grandkids and neighbor's kids grow up without
experiencing the thrill of watching a bobber dip as a panfish
takes the bait toward the bottom of a lake. They don't know
what it's like to hold a fish, know how it smells, or feel
how slippery it can be. They don't know what it's like to
go on a special trip with a parent, grandparent or neighbor.
We don't let them get wet, dirty, smelly or in the way.
They are too young to fly-fish, too young to cast the way
we do, too young to talk right in adult company, too young
for our activities and too young to be included in our lives.
After all, we are serious fishermen, and we wouldn't want
anyone to think we have lowered our standards, would we?
When the weather gets a little nicer, I'm going to catch
nightcrawlers on the lawn one Friday night with my grandkids
and we'll go bluegill fishing on Saturday. We'll get dirty,
smelly, wet and load up on treats a mother would faint over,
but a kid would love. The grandkids will learn a bit more
about how to hold a fish and release it if we don't plan
to keep it. They'll learn where fish live, how they behave
and later, how they taste. We'll keep a few bluegills for
the table and discuss the balance of nature that would be
affected if we took too many. We'll all sleep better that
night; the kids because they are exhausted, and me because
I got to share some of their time and life. It will be a
good day; it always is when we go away clean and return
smelly, dirty and happy.
What do you see when you look at that picture? I see an
opportunity so valuable a father or grandfather or neighbor
couldn't let it pass. Do you?