This past week I bought our fishing licenses that allow us to fish from freshwater in England. I was tempted to do this in Italy, but the language barrier got in the way. My main goal is to introduce the kids to fishing.
I can remember, to this day, my first fishing experience. I think I was about 6 (around Brenden’s age). A friend of my Dad’s took our family fishing on his yacht out on some lake in the Northwest (Oregon? Washington?). They had dumbed it down so even a young kid could do it. They baited my hook, and cast it into the lake for me… then they put the rod under my charge and the boat trolled. Kid proof, right? At some point, I got a bite and reeled it in with coaching from my Dad. I don’t even remember what type of fish it was or how big it was (of course, my memory says it was big because I was 4 feet shorter then than I am now). But I think it was the first fish that was caught on the trip (and I also seem to remember that it was my only catch that day).
Now, the Brits fish a little differently than we do in the States (or, at least the bass-style fishing I got into). They have these 10-13 foot long rods that they put a bobber on, cast it nearby and place the rod in the holder and wait (or sleep, or drink tea). After I bought my license and started researching where to fish, I found that most of the places are stocked with fish that the Brits claim are not good to eat (I think carp is a mainstay in most ponds out here). Then I found one or two places that stock trout… but the fine print says the only way you can fish trout at these places is by fly-fishing only. Probably a little complicated for a kid by my guess (unlike my first attempt at fishing mentioned above). It’s also a little complicated for me; I’ve never gone fly-fishing.
So I contacted one of the places and spoke with the owner to coordinate our first trouting expedition. When we showed up, he gave us some of his equipment and gave me a 45-minute crash course on fly-fishing. Casting is almost backwards from how you do “normal” fishing (as you want to flick the rod back rather than forward). Once I demonstrated a semblance of competency on casting, he left me to it and took Brenden under his wing (Marissa watched; I think she may be a little young yet… Brenden probably is too if truth be told). Fast forward about 2 hours, and needless to say all I caught was a sunburn. A sunburn in Britain… doesn’t that sound funny… but this month is the hottest in 7 years here, ringing in at a scorching 76°F. Luckily Pam was the wise one: she packed a picnic to stave off any boredom for the kids.
To make the trip a success (success = kid + caught fish), the owner took us over to his stocking area (rather than his stocked lakes that we had been fishing) and gave Brenden a go at it. I was amazed at how many fish were in these stocking/growth “ponds”… I could literally walk on water from an onlooker’s point of view, when really I’m just walking on a slithering mass of fish. This was truly going to be like “shooting fish in a barrel.” But that’s fine as long as the kids get a kick out of it.
No sooner did Brenden dip the fly/hook into the water than it was snatched up. I think he enjoyed reeling it in, though he had a little help. After a 5-minute fight, the owner was able to net the fish and present it to Brenden:
It was rather humorous too, because Marissa was petting the fish when it was her turn to check it out. “Daddy, it’s soft!” she exclaimed. “Quit playing with your food!” I scolded her (in a light and joking manner). The kids were a little grossed out that there was a little blood (from cracking the thing over the skull), but the gross-out was only short-lived and fell well short of the trauma stage.
Since I bought a 4-fish pass at the trout lakes, the owner netted the remaining 3 fish from the stocking tanks and off we went to the cleaning sink. I cleaned 2 of them while he cleaned the other 2. We brought them home and baked them in foil with herbs, salt, pepper, garlic and (of course) wine. A tasty meal… I wish I coulda said I caught them myself rather than winning the Sympathy Prize. At least the trip was a success though (as defined above).
Oh well. The owner of the place assured me that fly-fishing newbies typically don’t catch a thing until their 3rd time out or so. In the meantime, I think I’m going to buy an inexpensive fly-fishing rig and practice my casting in the yard.