The moment Zacharie pulled the rainbow trout out of the water and it lay on the dock gasping I started mentally gasping along with the fish.
I have been fishing since I was a young child. Sun fish, perch, salmon, trout, halibut, bass, rock fish – I’ve caught them all with either my father or a guide by my side.
This time, however, at Elmer’s Pond in Whitefish, Montana, it was just me and my four year old son.
Just before his fourth birthday, as we were shopping for camping gear for our first trip, he spotted what he calls his “Go Diego Go fishing rod.” Modeled after Diego’s famous Rescue Pack, the rod has been a non stop wish of his. My father bought it for him for his birthday, and each day since he has asked to practice casting in the driveway.
I should have known I wouldnt be able to handle the sight of the gasping fish on the dock. I have been searching YouTube for information on how to properly gear a line (yeah, my Dad did that for me) and the higgle piggle concoction of tackle in my box would give away my naivete to any seasoned angler.
Still, I managed to get a hook, a bobber and a weight on his Go Diego Go fishing rod and on the third cast into Elmer’s Pond, the bobber disappeared. We were lucky, the hole had been stocked just the day before and the rainbows quickly nibbled away at our ball of bread.
Zacharie reeled it in, we raised it on to the dock, and as it flopped around I thought, “Now what?!”
“Throw him back,” he quickly replied. Having just seen Finding Nemo the week before his gospel was “fish are friends, not food.”
I don’t think I could have bonked the fish and cleaned it. It would have been impossible. My dad has always done that. The guide has always done that. Sure, I have helped a couple of times when I was younger, but our last few trips as adults have been to fly-in resorts where that sort of dirty work is done for you.
I got the hook out and girlishly herded the rainbow back into the pond as if it was a spider I was trying to shoo out a door.
My son caught his first fish and it was a wonderful father/son moment to have shared, and something that scared me – I am not my father.
I haven’t picked up any of his skills. I can’t install insulation. I can’t work with wood. I can’t green thumb in the garden. I can’t fish.
I took him for granted. I was lazy around his expertise and I have learned nothing. I am not my father, and it’s a shame.