My son has loved fishing since he was little. It wasn’t something I forced him to do–unlike managing personal hygiene or doing chores. Fishing just seemed to be in his blood from the get-go. When he got to be about 11, I introduced him to fly fishing. Does he love fly fishing? To answer that question indirectly, he likes to catch fish. If he caught a lot of fish when we go fly fishing, he would love it. Doesn’t happen that way most of the time, but fishing is fishing when you get past the means of fooling fish into taking some sort of artificial lure, and I’m no snob.
But this isn’t about me.
The Carefree Days of Youth
During the summer of Schpanky’s 12th year, he practically lived at the little lake that lies smack in the middle of our small town: Lake Rasmussen, or as it is more affectionately known to locals, Mud Lake. Nearly every day of that summer, the boy and a ragtag assembly of his friends would, by some means, get to the lake with their fishin’ poles and tackle boxes, and a lunch. Sometimes they would ride their bikes, other times they would play the pathetic card and talk Mrs. UA or another mom into giving them a ride. Moms are too easy on their boys. The young anglers would be there all day, coming home at the end of the day tired, dirty and hungry. And loving every minute of it. We’re not sure how Schpanky survived that summer, as eating became secondary to fishing: often upon his return from the lake, his lunch would be untouched in his backpack.
Day in and day out Schpanky would venture to “Mud” and cast to bass and catfish from the public access “beach”. Beach is perhaps an inaccurate description because it suggests swimming activities. One would not, in their right mind, take a dip in Mud Lake because it is aptly named. And it has leeches and more mosquito larvae than than a third world country. But it also has bass and catfish, and it held the attention of these boys for countless hours during this particular summer of their carefree youth.
The bass that the boys caught from the beach were not big–maybe 8 to 10 inchers that dashed from their nests in acts of defensive aggression. One afternoon I drove to the lake to pick the boy up – he’d been there all day, and because we were worried about his lack of nutrition I had been sent to fetch him home for a proper meal. As I watched him patiently toss his Sinko rubber bait repeatedly into the shallows, I suggested that perhaps the next night I would bring my float tube down and send him across the lake to the far bank, which was lined with blackberry bushes and brambles. And structure. He liked that idea. The next evening we did just that.
I stifled my amusement as he geared up for his mission: clad in neoprene waders that were 2 sizes too big for him, his feet strapped into fins that were even larger, it was all I could do to keep from chuckling out loud. I made sure his PFD was secured (I was NOT going swimming in that water if he were to slip out of the float tube) and sent him off to the other side of the lake which was only maybe 50 yards away. It didn’t take him long before he hooked into something considerably larger than the small fish he’d been catching at the beach. The challenge was landing the fish from his perch atop the float tube. I seem to recall a voice echoing across the still surface of the pond. There was a touch of concern in the tone, “Daaad, I can’t get it!” I calmly instructed him to reel the fish in as closely as possible and kick his way back toward the beach. It was quite a sight to see as the over-dressed kid in over-sized gear struggled to kick as fast as he could while dragging the fish behind him. It wasn’t a huge fish, but it was a nice bass in the 3 pound range. And he was a pretty small kid–just an amateur angler in those days.
Golf Sucks (except for ponds)
Summers since then have been less carefree. What with a summer job and all, there hasn’t been nearly the time for fishing. While he’s old enough to drive himself (thus the need for a job) and use my float tube without adult supervision, frankly he’s outgrown Mud Lake. He spends most of his time working at the Carnation Golf Course, where he’s been a Cart Rat for a couple years now. His job is to wash carts as they come in from a round of play, and essentially keep the cart barn clean and tidy. He likes golf, and he’s pretty good at it (I have no idea where that came from). Last summer Mrs. UA and I had dinner at the golf course, and Schpanky proudly gave us a tour of his office. He also showed me a pond that lies immediately behind the cart barn. He mentioned that there were some big bass in there, but he hadn’t tried fishing for them yet. The only access to the pond is via a small, rickety, floating dock that is used to hold some piping for an irrigation pump (it’s not a fishing platform). Space is tight so a fly rod is out of the question (believe me, I thought about taking some surface poppers down there and having a go at it). But I reminded him that he’s there to work–not fish. He agreed that if his fishing rod did happen to find it’s way to his office, it would be used only after he had clocked out. That was a year ago.
A couple of weeks ago I got a text message from him. He was at work. The text message included this photo of a 5-6 pounder:
“Nice fish,” I replied. “You catch that while on the clock?” Turns out he did. “Work was slow and I was caught up with the carts,” he said. Hard to fault him for that, although I certainly don’t condone spending company time on personal matters, or say, taking Post-it notes or pens from the office supply room to bring home. I’ve never done that.
Schpanky told me there were much bigger fish in the pond than this one, and that he’d momentarily hooked a hawg before it broke him off. I could sense an excitement and determination in his voice that I hadn’t detected since that summer of his 12th year. Again, I cautioned him against fishing on company time.
A week later I receive another text message from the boy. With another photo attached:
“Damn, son!” was my reply. He responded by telling me it was 8-9 pounds. Later, when I had a chance to catch up with him in person I inquired, “You get paid to catch that fish?”
Apparently work was a little slow, again. With a glimmer in his eye he said, “There are even bigger ones in there.”
It’s hard to fault a guy for getting paid to fish. I wish I did.