BE­TWEEN FISH

Anglers Journal - - CONTENTS - By WIL­LIAM SIS­SON

I’ve been wait­ing for a son or daugh­ter to share my fer­vor for fishing. I may have finally found one with a grand­son who is taken by all things fish.

For three decades, I an­tic­i­pated the ar­rival of an off­spring who would en­joy chas­ing fish to the far hori­zons with his or her old man. We would be a pair of happy, moon­struck lu­natics, fishing side by side from boat, beach and be­yond. I had three daugh­ters and a son, and they all fished with me to vary­ing de­grees. Mostly, though, they just wanted to spend time with their fa­ther. Fishing came se­cond.

Then came Ben, a pre­co­cious 6-year-old who can cast like a fiend and has learned more about fishing from Youtube than from spend­ing time on the wa­ter. He’s my old­est grand­son and my lat­est wing­man. My job is to put a lit­tle salt in his socks and keep stok­ing the flames of his fishing de­sires.

Right now, they’re burn­ing pretty brightly. “All he talks about is fishing, Dad,” says my old­est daugh­ter, Alana, an ad­min­is­tra­tor with a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion. “He’s driv­ing ev­ery­body crazy. It’s usu­ally the first thing he asks when I pick him up at school. Not, ‘Hi, Mom’ or ‘How was your day?’ It’s, ‘Can we go fishing?’ ”

He’s af­ter his fa­ther just as hard. “Every night when I get home from work, it’s, ‘Dad, can we go fishing?’ ” says Dan, who is an en­gi­neer. “He wants to chal­lenge me to a three-hour fish-off to see who can catch the most fish.”

Ben also talked his fa­ther into down­load­ing a photo-shar­ing and so­cial net­work­ing fishing app. And when the two were shop­ping for foot­ball gear at a brick-and-mor­tar store re­cently, Ben wan­dered off. His fa­ther found him in the fishing sec­tion, where Ben con­vinced him he needed to buy a pack­age of Rip­ple Shad Power­bait.

“He’s been beg­ging me to buy a boat and a salt­wa­ter rod,” Dan says, amused and amazed. “I told him we can’t af­ford a boat. So he’s been ask­ing Siri on my phone to search for the cheap­est boat that’s for sale.”

Ben’s de­sire to fish seems to be com­pletely self-gen­er­ated. His fa­ther and I fished of­ten be­fore Ben was born. Dan is a good com­pan­ion and a ca­pa­ble fish­er­man, but he didn’t ini­ti­ate the out­ings. I took Ben to a lo­cal pond when he was 3 or 4 to catch sun­fish. He liked it well enough, but there was noth­ing to sug­gest his re­cent trans­for­ma­tion into a fish fiend.

Ben is bright, ver­bal and ath­letic. In ad­di­tion to fishing, he plays golf, base­ball, flag foot­ball and soc­cer. He has good hand-eye co­or­di­na­tion, and he’s very com­pet­i­tive. “He wants to win ev­ery­thing,” his fa­ther says. “And he’ll bend the rules. He keeps score on fish. And he typ­i­cally skews it in his fa­vor.”

Sounds like a born fish­er­man.

The three of us fished to­gether on Fa­ther’s Day this year. We caught a few large­mouth. Ben sprayed casts around the pond and talked up a storm. He also may have heard some salty phrase­ol­ogy in­ad­ver­tently slip out of my mouth when I missed a fish or two.

My slip of the tongue took me back to the first time I swore in front of my fa­ther. It was on a se­cluded pond in Rhode Is­land more than 50 years ago, with my friend Peter. We were cast­ing float­ing balsa min­nows for bass when I wrapped one around a branch. For­get­ting for a moment who was there, I said, “Shit.”

My fa­ther just stared at me. Peter grinned at me from around my fa­ther’s back.

“Sorry, sorry, sorry Dad,” I ut­tered. “I didn’t mean to say that. It won’t hap­pen again.”

About 10 min­utes later, I missed a fish and swore a se­cond time, af­ter which I se­verely reined in my ver­bosity.

This past Fa­ther’s Day, my son-in-law qui­etly re­minded me af­ter my se­cond ver­bal faux pas that young Ben was sit­ting in the boat. Ben re­mained poker-faced, giv­ing no in­di­ca­tion that he’d heard any­thing wor­thy of note. Later, he con­fided to his dad, “Cappy said some bad words.”

To­ward the end of sum­mer, Ben and I spent five hours on a springfed pond fishing for sun­nies, bluegills and bass, from shore and from a noisy old alu­minum row­boat. We had a great time. We heard a barred owl some­where along the ridge to the east — Ben later told his mother we had “owl luck.” Drag­on­flies were busy hov­er­ing over lily pads. And we caught some nice bass along the edge of the weeds and in a clear pool un­der a canopy of low branches.

In an­other spot, I tried to place a swim­ming plug be­side a small wooden float tied to shore, but the line wound up just over the tip of a branch, held in place by a leaf or two. I re­trieved the lure un­til it hung straight down from the tree limb and ad­ja­cent to the float. “Let’s see if we can get lucky, Ben,” I said. “Watch this.”

I wig­gled the rod tip, caus­ing the lure to dap­ple the wa­ter. A bass promptly smacked it, free­ing it from the limb. I handed the rod to Ben, who brought the fish in.

Ben kept count us­ing the lat­est math. The fi­nal tally was Ben: six bass, 11 sun­fish, three or four bluegills. Cappy: zero.

A fish­er­man is born.

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Please send your com­ments to edi­tor-in-chief Bill Sis­son at wsis­son@aim­me­dia.com.

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