Passing on our love of fishing is one of the great joys of the sport. At least it always has been for me. Let’s face it youngsters have so much enthusiasm and energy when it comes to fishing, how can you not want to spend time fishing with them?
Years back we lived off Wadsworth Blvd., just a few minutes from Chatfield Reservoir. To date myself, the flooded trees on the west end were still standing and were a protected heron rookery close to fishing when the birds were nesting. Walleye and smallmouth bass had yet to be introduced. At that time, the perch numbers were outstanding, and catching a limit of 20 was relatively easy most days, especially through the ice.
Jennifer was about four at the time. While she’d gone fishing with me numerous times, I’d not gotten serious about her fishing. I figured it was time, and that ice fishing would be perfect. No casting, just drop a line down the hole and catch fish, especially as the perch bite had been good. I waited for the perfect day, a sunny January with air temperatures above freezing and Chatfield had a good six inches plus of ice.
The real hurtle was getting Sue’s blessing. Not easy, as she had many concerns. Is it safe? Yes, and I’ll be extra careful. Won’t she be cold? She’ll be bundled and I’ll keep an eye on her. Question after question was answered. Ultimately, I prevailed.
I loaded up the sled and Jennifer into the truck and away we went. It was mid-morning when we parked and made our way onto the ice. Of course part of the fun for Jennifer was the sled ride to the fishing spot, the submerged gravel pits to the west of the rookery.
I drilled a hole and let Jennifer clear the ice chips with the spoon, while I rigged a rod. What kid doesn’t like playing it the water? The line dropped down the hole no sooner hit bottom then a perch hit. Handing the rod to Jennifer, she reeled in the first fish of the day. Down the line went a second time, same result.
At that point I worked with her on dropping the line down the hole herself. Those perch were cooperative and she rarely had to wait long for a fish. At that point I was still too busy taking fish off the line to get a second hole drilled. So I worked with her on that and how to bait her hook with a wax worm. She was getting the hang of things, allowing me to drill that second hole and work at rigging a rod, in between getting the hook out of her mittens, fish that were hooked deep, undoing tangles, you name.
It was great fun watching her become increasingly self-sufficient and giving me time to fish a little also. Very little it turned out, as about the time I managed to catch a couple fish from the second hole, Jennifer said, “Daddy, I’m tired of catching fish, can we go home.” As much as I like to fish, and as great as the catching was, I knew keeping the experience positive would ensure she’d want to fish again. Hopefully, again and again and . . . So we called it a day.
Since that day, Jennifer has fished with me on and off over the years, sometimes with enthusiasm, sometimes to please Dad, and sometimes not at all. There was even a period when we didn’t see eye-to-eye, to say the least, so we didn’t fish together from her late teens until a few years ago. But those fishless days are gone, now she and husband Cody fish with me regularly and I look forward to watching granddaughter Alexandria become a fisher.
While one can never be sure what life will give you, I’m quite sure that if you share your love of fishing, it will be returned to you many times over. At least it has been to me since that fish day on the ice with Jennifer.