Sam's First Fish
I can imagine a Normal Rockwell painting of a 70-something kind old grandfather with a 6-something grandson, proudly holding his first fish on a very simple old rod and reel, standing on a dock at the edge of a quintessential New England Lake, with mountains in the background. My grandson, Sam Lowry, from Missoula, Montana and I got to live that American Norman Rockwell dream this summer.
I knew Sam was coming for a visit, and I knew he was interested in fishing. I had it all figured out. I threw a book I had on freshwater fishing into my bag so I could bone up, because I really knew darn little about it, in spite of having been taught by my grandfather, more than 60 years ago. I knew I'd have to get a license for myself, and would probably want to shop for a nice little kid's rod and some lures or worms, in spite of having some really old, tangled rods lying around the camp. Then I'd ask my friend, Peter, from the camp next door, for some tips. Peter went out almost every evening and really knew what he was doing.
It didn't happen that way. In the blur of activity that started the minute they arrived I never even unpacked the book, never got my fishing license, never got to the store, and never got a chance to ask Peter for tips. Instead, Sam's parents decided to go in town to look at art galleries, leaving Sam and I to figure out Saturday afternoon for ourselves. I rememberd seeing a really old kid's rod with a very simple rusted reel ... the kind you would have bought in a dime store in the 1940's... and an artifical lure, in the boat house. I found it and asked Sam if he wanted to go fishing, even though it was mid afternoon, and not the best time to fish. He said sure, and we donned life jackets and hoppped into the Boston Whaler. Sam was both thrilled and intimidated to find hooks on the lure. Turned out he had "fished" with his dad before...but without a real hook, just to be safe. I obviously didn't know that!
We headed off to the last place I had caught a fish in the lake, which was about ten years ago when I fell out of a canoe doing it. It had probably been more than twenty years before that that I last fished, and the canoe experience didn't reignite any passion for it. The 60hp outboard on the Whaler was clearly overkill for trolling, and the artificial lure with two gang hooks looked bigger than most of the fish I had seen in the lake. I wasn't expepcting much. But it was a beautiful afternoon, I was out on the water with my grandson, and the lure had enough drag to make it fun for him to hold the rod.
We had a bit of excitement when the rod tip bent and he excitedly reeled it in, but it appears I had gone too close to shore and hooked a weed. We continued to troll a bit more until he got bored with holding the rod, and put it in the rod holder behind the seat, with the lure still out. I headed for a small cove that was quiet and beautiful, more to share the tranquility of it with him than anything else. As we rounded the point into the cove, wham! the rod tip really bent! and we scrambled to pick the rod out of the holder. Just as we did the smallmouth bass on the other end of the line jumped out of the water and Sam's excitement went through the roof!
And that's how I came to be with my grandson when he caught his first fish, just as my grandfather had done with me six decades ago.