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Sweet joy of a child’s first fish

By on March 23, 2020 in Outdoor Fun with 0 Comments
One of Dave Graybill’s favorite kids fishing moments came when seeing Karin Lenare with her fish at Rock Island.

By Dave Graybill

The last weekend in April is one of the biggest events in state. 

Hundreds of thousands of friends and families gather together, some of them for the only time of the year. 

What’s the occasion? 

It’s the statewide opening of the lowland lakes to trout fishing. This celebration of the long-held tradition of casting a line in the water with the hope of attracting a trout to a baited hook, still remains one of the primary reasons that causes people to spend time outdoors.

For many years, my wife Eileen and I spent the first day of the weekend traveling to our area lakes. We didn’t take a fishing rod. Just a camera to capture the festivities. 

We would encounter large groups of people that were camping at one of these lakes. It was not uncommon for us to meet three generations of a family that had been coming to the same lake for opening weekend for 30 or 40 years. 

Rain or shine, they keep returning. It is where memories were born, and each year more are added to the fabric of these families.

What started all of this? A trout. 

The first trout caught by a youngster under the guidance of a father or grandfather, it caused that thrill, and it is a thrill that has been passed down through generations. 

My mother used to tell a story about me when I was just two years old. I was missing from the house, and she looked all over, even the outbuildings. She finally found me standing on a rock in the middle of Mission Creek, holding a stick like I was fishing. 

I must have seen people fishing. Watching the fun they were having, I wanted to experience it. 

There is nothing like seeing a youngster catch their first fish. The emotions range from apt joy to terror.

Some kids can’t wait to get their hands on the fish, while others shrink from the wet wiggly thing. 

I have been involved with many fishing events for kids from Moses Lake to Leavenworth. I have witnessed hundreds of kids land their first fish. I think I have as much fun watching them catch that fish as they have doing it. 

I have always felt that these events were the best way to get kids, and their families to add fishing as an activity. Unless they have a family member already involved in the sport, there really is no other way to start them on this path, that takes them outdoors and rewards them. When they have success, they can later learn the basics of tying knots and casting — along with lots of patience. 

I was fortunate. My father loved to fish, and to take us with him. I remember a day that he rented a boat at Fish Lake, and loaded it with my brother, sister and me. He anchored the boat and we caught a bunch of perch. 

What makes me remember this day is that we didn’t use rods. He handed each of us a reel. He had tied on a hook and a sinker at the end of the line. He told us to lower our baited hooks to the bottom and when we got a bite, give the line a jerk and pull the fish in hand-over-hand. 

He was very clever. There is nothing worse than having three little kids in a boat, all trying to cast. He avoided the flying hooks and tangles that would have resulted. We had a blast and didn’t miss having a rod in our hands at all.

I remember the first fishing reel that I bought myself. It was a Mitchell 300. It served me well for years. That was the beginning of my purchases. 

Now the number of spinning rods, casting rods, fly rods and the reels that go along with them just keeps growing. I mean you need a different rod and reel for bass, another for walleye, some for trout and others for salmon, etc. There is a good reason for having each and every one of them — really.

It doesn’t take a big investment to get started. There are many rod and reel combos available at local sporting goods stores at very reasonable prices. Hooks and sinkers aren’t costly; add a jar of Power Bait or a tub of nightcrawlers and you are ready to hit a local lake. 

Here’s a tip. Use a slip sinker method when casting from shore. Slide an “egg” sinker on the line, then tie on a swivel. Put three or four feet of leader below the swivel to the hook. When the fish bites the line slides through the sinker. They don’t feel the weight and won’t spit out the bait before you see your line twitch and you can set the hook.

It is getting more and more difficult to get kids and their families involved in fishing. 

When youngsters aren’t on the baseball diamond, soccer pitch or basketball court they have their attention focused on a computer screen. 

Youth sports are great, but they don’t offer the same kind of outdoor experience that fishing does. Watching an osprey snatch a fish off the surface of a lake is as much a part of the joy in a day of fishing as landing a fish. 

The anticipation of what to come while driving with the family to their favorite lake, and the trip home re-living the day, provides the quality time that is in such short supply these days. Not to mention the fresh fish meals that can be enjoyed together.

I look forward to this opening weekend again this year. I garner real pleasure from observing all those anglers crowding the shores of the many great fishing lakes we have here. 

It often appears as barely controlled chaos, but there are squeals of joy, laughter and, “Wow, look at the size of that one!” overlaying the noise and frantic activity. 

I can’t wait to get out and soak it all in.

Dave Graybill has a popular web site focused on fishing here in Central Washington.  He also has a popular Facebook page that keeps people up to date on current fishing opportunities in the region.

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