Everyone who knows me knows very well that I am a competitor and that I like a good challenge as well as anyone! I found myself in a very unique situation on June 29th while spending the late afternoon fishing on Elephant Lake. There I was sitting in my 16-foot Jon boat and relaxing on a beautiful summer afternoon. The lake was as calm as I've ever seen it and the temperature was very warm and it was one of those great days just to be out there fishing. I really don't know of any therapy that relaxes me more then a nice quiet leisurely fishing trip.
On this particular day there was not one other boat on the lake when we arrived. WE, I apparently was not alone! It could also mean depending on who else was in the boat that there would be talking and occasionally an excited scream once a big fish was caught or that muffled groan every time that so called big one got away right by the boat. In any event there was sure to be noise of some sort of all kinds and possibly tangled lines, it might also mean an occasional heated discussion about the improper use of a fishing pole. It could also be one of the most rewarding fishing trips of your life if all goes well and you have a successful day.
This trip was not your typical fishing trip as also in my boat were my 18 year old daughter Jessie, 10 year old daughter Alea, 9 year old son Travis, 10 year old Colt McDonald and 6 year old brother Harley. Six people in a 16-foot boat and 4 of them 10 years old and under! Colt and Harley had limited fishing experience but proved to be fast learners and fierce competitors. For the past week these two boys have been staying with us here and helping us feed and water our chickens, turkeys, rabbits as well as planting and weeding in our gardens. So the least I could do is to take these two hard workers out fishing with us.
We arrived at the Lake about 4:30 P.M. where the following conversations could have been heard. "No you can't all wear the green life jacket." "No you can't sit in the front of the boat because you need to sit on the cooler by me so you can help me." "No not on that seat, as that is where I have to run the boat motor." "No this boat is not one we have to paddle, we have a boat motor to get us out to the fishing hole and back" (hopefully). "Yes we have enough boat gas for today; no there are no gas stations on this lake."
I think anyone can go fishing on a lake and catch fish and have a good time but can you take 4 young children and teach them how to fish safely and effectively all at the same time? Young children have the greatest imaginations in the world and a never- ending excitement level. They are true competitors and yet even though they sometimes get frustrated from time to time (just like we adults) when it just happens to be one of those days when they are the only one left in the boat to catch a fish. Seldom do you ever see them put down their poles when they are having a bad day or the fish just are not biting at the present time.
During the 3 1/2hours I spent on the lake with this crew we were lucky to catch plenty of fish and really didn't have too many problems. The excitement level in that boat was greatly elevated from time to time and yes there were a few tangles mixed in with a whole lot of laughter and comical situations. The following comments and remarks were all heard from time to time.
"Travis! We are not playing pool, that is not a pool stick and my eye is not a pool ball! That is a fishing pole, please watch what you are doing." "Can I fish on the other side?" "No, you need to fish on this side so I can watch and help you." "But all the other kids are fishing on that side!" "I know, but that is why you and I must fish on this side." "But there are fish jumping on that side!" "That is because someone has that fish hooked, that is why it is jumping." "But there are no fish jumping on our side!" "Never mind....." "Can I fish on the other side now?" "No." "Can I fish over there later?" "No, well maybe." "Well why can't I fish over there now then?" "Because you really need to fish on this side so we do not get tangled with those other kids, and because it is easier for me to help you if you fish on this side with me."
Each time we would catch a fish big enough to keep we would put it on ice in one of the coolers located at each end of the boat. A cold firm fish is much easier to filet then a warm soft one and much better on the table too. I always like to put the youngest kid with the least experience on the cooler directly in front of me so I can be there to assist him and also hopefully prevent him from doing something that could hurt himself or others in the boat. However each time we catch a fish that we are going to keep this person must stand up so the cooler can be opened enough to be able to put the fish in. As the day goes on this young fisherman starts to understand the phrase "Butt Up!" and relates the landing of a fish with the need to stand up. Until then the following conversation might be heard; "Butt up!" "Ok," "Butt up!" "Ok" "Hey, you need to get up so I can put the fish in!" "Do I have a bite?" "No now stand up so I can put the fish in the cooler." "Ok." "Hey!" "What?" "Stand up!" "Am I on bottom?" "Here let me help you up so we can put the fish in the cooler." "Ok can I sit down now?" "Yes!" "Thanks!"
Have you ever been assigned a job that you really did not know how to do but were determined to do it anyway and even more determined to do a good job at it no matter what it took? The following conversation will hopefully explain to you what was going on with one of my fishing partner as he made a fantastic effort to master the reeling in of a fish. "Here turn your pole over and hang on to the rod with this hand and turn reel forward with this hand like that." "Ok." "Are you left-handed?" "I'm both." "Good then you can reel forward like this instead of backwards like you were." "I like reeling backwards!" "Well that is not the proper way of using a fishing pole."
During the day I was asked many questions and tried my best to offer whatever help and advice I could so that all my fishing partners were catching fish. In the midst of all the questions and fish being caught (sometimes 3 and 4 at a time!) I also heard these comments..."How come her pole is so bendy?" "There are two people on the shore across the lake. Maybe we should go over there, maybe it is a hockey game!" "Get the net it is a big one!" "Oh yours isn't very big but mine sure was a whopper!" "Is it midnight yet?" "Should we move yet?" "Can I fish on the other side yet?" "Want to share my sandwiches with me?"
To survive this day would be a great feat for many of you and it was quite a challenge for me too although I not only survived it, it turned into one of the most rewarding days of my fishing career. If you know some kids in your neighborhood that simply never get the chance to go fishing, step forward and accept that challenge. The look and excitement in these kids' eyes can be compared to catching a 100-LB king salmon yourself! If you know of someone but don't have the ways or means to get these kids out give me a call and I will drag them along with me someday this summer. Please explain to them ahead of time what the phrase "Butt up" means. See You Next Week!
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