Jessie Raymond: Discovering the fun of fishing


There’s nothing quite as enjoyable as spending a spring evening fishing.

At least that’s what Mark says. But then, he practically grew up with a fishing pole over his shoulder. I grew up with a book bag over mine.

He hasn’t fished much as an adult, but he’s got loads of stories about his childhood in Weybridge, where he and his siblings would spend entire summer days fishing “where the Fair dumps into the Creek” (pronounced “crick”). He makes it sound fun, not boring, which was always my impression of fishing.

Like Mark, I grew up in the country. And I appreciated the outdoors as much as any kid. It’s just that the most I wanted to physically experience it was to sit under a tree reading, and then only until a bug crawled on me. My favorite way to enjoy nature was vicariously.

So no, I never “went fishing” in the traditional sense. I did, however, see “Jaws,” and I read some Hemingway in high school. (Reading Hemingway is also how I trained as a bullfighter.) But Mark says none of that counts.

Years ago, we took our kids fishing a handful of times, but all I remember is that small children are physically incapable of leaving the line alone and waiting for the fish to bite. They take a proactive approach, dragging the worm around the water in search of the fish and repeatedly reeling in the line to check if there’s anything on the hook.

Occasionally, they’ll pull the line out of the water and wave the pole around (“I’m casting!”) while the adults duck to avoid the flying hook and attached worm.

Now two of our grandchildren live nearby, and Mark is determined that they will grow up knowing the joy of fishing, and not just through reading about it. (What a purist.) We took them out most recently last weekend.

To be fair, I am not an active participant in the fishing. I go along, but I do not braid the worm to the bobber or thread the sinker around the reel or whatever it is that fishing people do. That’s Mark’s territory.

To show you what a pro he is, he bought worms. I, being naive, didn’t even know worm stores existed. I thought we could just dig for worms in our backyard, unaware that it takes specially trained ones to do the skilled labor of getting eaten.

We got down to the Lemon Fair on Sunday to find that the sun was out but the bugs weren’t, making it perhaps the nicest afternoon we’ve had this spring. I did my job by plonking down in a camp chair.

Mark, on the other hand, had to set up three poles. He was doing a lot of knot-tying and worm wrangling while fending off the children, who couldn’t wait to get their poles in hand. While he baited the hooks above his head, safely out of the kids’ reach, I basked in the sun and watched the birds.

“Look, a duck!” I said.

“Mmph,” Mark said through pursed lips; he was using his mouth to hold the fishing line, as his hands were full doing something with the hook and the pole. I’m pretty sure he didn’t even look at the duck.

Once he got the poles set up, each resting in a forked stick, all we had to do was to watch the lines to see if anything bit. The kids, however, rejected such passivity.

Every few minutes, the four-year-old would make her way to the snack bag, choosing to clamber over the three propped-up poles rather than walk behind our chairs. Each time, she’d stop to reel in one of the lines, just in case.

While Mark would work on getting her line safely back in the water, her brother would reel in one of the other lines and attempt to cast it out again, oblivious to the path of the deadly hook/worm combination he was swinging over our heads.

I got a good laugh watching Mark scramble to keep all three lines in the water at once. He spent every minute on damage control, untangling one line from a shrub (the result of the kindergartner’s rogue cast) or attaching a new worm to another line after the previous worm succumbed to terminal whiplash at the hands of the preschooler.

In the end, we didn’t catch a single fish. And Mark had to take a nap when we got home. But the kids are already begging to go out again.

Honestly, it sounds like fun to me.

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