She asked me to take her fishing, out of the blue. So I took her to the local Wal-Mart and let her pick out a fishing rod. She chose a pink, Zebco Barbie model, more a toy than a fishing rod.
What the heck. Owen Jane is only five.
I bought some red worms and took her to one of my favorite fishing spots on the Tuckasegee River, a place where a wild trout stream feeds into the river, a place where I most always catch a trout or two.
Hoisting her on my back, I waded downstream to a large pool fed by three cascades. We stopped to watch a huge water snake trying to devour an 8-inch trout and doing a credible job of it. She hung onto my neck with the same choke-hold her mother used the many times I carried her across a stream to a fishing spot.
We baited up and cast out, but the reel had only about 20 feet of line on it, not enough to get out where the trout fed. I hoped, at least, she’d catch a river chub, but not even one of those pesky horny-headed fish accommodated her. After an hour or so, she was bored.
“We’ll come back another time when the fish are biting,” I said.
Not a good beginning.
I never had someone teach me to fish; I taught myself. I bought a makeshift fishing outfit that consisted of a wooden frame with about 50 feet of fishing line wrapped around it, a bobber, and a couple of hooks. Using a stout piece of river cane, I made myself a fishing pole, collected fat red worms from old cowpies in a nearby pasture and headed for the creek.
The stream was Paddy’s Creek, near where I lived in Burke County. I don’t know if the creek had trout or not because I never caught a trout there. What it did have was a large, deep pool created by an old rotted dam. We boys swam there after working in the fields on hot summer days. The water was clear and icy cold. I baited my hook, cast into the pond, and almost immediately saw the bobber dip a couple of times and disappear. I pulled in a small sunfish about the size of my hand. I marveled at its bright orange belly and green back. It was beautiful, and it was magic. I caught three more and ate them for supper. That was the beginning of a life-long passion.
And that’s what I wanted for Owen Jane — the magic. I taught her mother to fish, and I taught my sons. Everyone but my daughter still fishes.
A few weeks later, Owen Jane again asked if I would take her fishing. We went back to the same place, this time with one of my sons. Instead of the Barbie rod, I gave her one my rods, an ultra-light spinning outfit. Before we entered the stream, I showed her how to cast, to hold the line against the rod with her index figure, to let go at just the right time in the cast, but it was difficult for her. He first cast went into a tree, and she could never get enough distance.
“Never mind,” I said. “I’ll cast for you, but you have to reel in.”
“Okay,” she said.
I prefer fly fishing, but I had only my spinning gear with me and live bait, so my son and I fished along with her, catching one river chub after another. After half an hour, Owen Jane hadn’t even had a bite. My son, feeling sorry for her, hooked a river chub, and let her have the rod.
“Reel it in,” he said, and she did, but there’s not much fun in catching a river chub. Besides, it was small.
I rebaited her hook and cast out to a place where bubbles were rising and went back to fishing.
“I think I have something,” she said. When I looked, the line was taut, and the rod was bent.
“Reel in,” I said, and she pulled in a 10-inch rainbow. I took it off the hook, and she looked at the fish and stroked its side, laughing excitedly. We put the trout in a makeshift creel, and I cast out again. My son and I continued to catch river chubs.
A few minutes later, she yelled again: “I’ve got something on.” Again, the line was taut, the pole bent, and Owen Jane pulled in her second trout, a beautiful 10-inch brown. My son and looked at each other in disbelief. “What are we doing wrong?” he asked.
Owen Jane again studied the trout, noting the red spots along its side, its brown belly, lovingly stroking it. “It’s pretty,” she said.
We fished a while longer, but even the chubs stopped hitting, so we went home. My son and I never caught a trout.
That evening, I showed her how to clean the trout, and I fried them for her, giving her the prized cheek meat, the delectable tiny scallops behind each eye. She insisted on sampling each trout.
Yeah, she felt the magic, and I know it will stick. In due time, as her coordination gets better, I’ll teach her to fly fish, and I so look forward to spending many fishing trips with my granddaughter.
Fishing. It’s something good we can pass along.
|WESLEY J. SATTERWHITE|
|Owen Jane Yanik shows off her first two trout, a brown and a rainbow from the Tuckaseegee River.|
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