The day I taught Phoebe to fish

I finally took Phoebe fishing this morning.

I had wanted to take her out for weeks, ever since we gave her the pink fishing pole she wanted for her birthday. All of our end-of-school activities made it hard to find a time, though. With nothing on our schedules this morning, I was determined to take her.

So I mentioned it to Phoebe last night while we were getting the girls ready for bed and told her we could go as soon as she could get herself out of bed and ready in the morning. … That happened around 10 o’clock.

This was a monumental event for me as a father that triggered so many fond memories of fishing days with my family in our canoe.

Phoebe and I headed first to the bait shop downtown and bought a $2 container of fresh worms. As we returned to the car, she insisted that she hold them and I obliged.

We drove to one of the small lakes 10 minutes north of town. It was a perfectly gorgeous Saturday with barely a cloud in the sky and a bit of a breeze.

But I was surprised to see the field surrounding the boat landing packed with cars as we pulled up. Surely, fishing on a Saturday morning isn’t THAT popular of an activity in The ‘Ville, I thought. It turned out, the local radio station had sponsored an overnight fishing competition at the lake that was concluding within the hour. As Phoebe and I walked from the car to the lakeshore, we passed a handful of seasoned fishermen and women waiting in line to weigh their catches and holding fish that looked so large they might as well have been sharks.

Not intimidating at all for a guy taking his daughter fishing for the first time.

We walked the grassy shoreline and she picked out a spot to fish from about 100 yards from the boat landing. As we set up, I quickly realized I had made a mistake by not preparing her pole and testing it prior to our adventure. But I proceeded, stringing the new fishing line through the guides and attaching a hook and bobber.

I happily and fairly easily taught Phoebe how to cast a line. She let me demonstrate once and declared she was ready to try on her own. She cast a couple lines and reeled them back. A quick learner, she was doing well.

Then my worst fear came true. On Phoebe’s third cast, the fishing line somehow got knotted inside its housing and the spool stopped working … The longer I sat in an attempt to fix the problem, Phoebe’s disappointment began to boil. Without the proper tools on hand to fix it, I told her, we needed to go home. “We’re never going to be able to go fishing!” she cried as like she stomped away and I gathered our belongings.

All the pride I had as we left the house had been bombed.

And then the couple fishing next to us saved me. The woman came over to me with an extra fishing pole, ready to go with a hook and bait, and offered it for Phoebe to borrow. I breathed a sigh of relief and gladly accepted.

When I called Phoebe back, she didn’t want to fish with the borrowed pole because it wasn’t hers. But we talked through it for a minute and, once it sunk in that there was no other way for us to continue fishing, she took the pole and started casting again.

Then, the male half of the couple next to us came over and asked if he could try fixing Phoebe’s pole. Without hesitation, I said, “Yes, please!” The man – an older gentleman with dark hair and a shaggy beard who was clearly a seasoned fisherman – took a seat next to us and went to work on the pole.

As the man’s female companion came over to lend a hand, I turned my focus back to Phoebe who was continuing to cast …

All of a sudden, her bobber went under the water, and she had a fish on her hook.

She reeled it in and we all shared the joy of seeing that fish on the end of the pole. … For the record, I have no idea what kind of fish it was – my best guess is a crappie. And we didn’t think to measure it, but it wasn’t large enough to keep.

And just like that, the man had Phoebe’s fishing pole fixed.

We exchanged the poles and Phoebe began casting again with her own pole. It worked like a dream and we didn’t have any issues for the remainder of the two hours we spent at the lake. I couldn’t thank the man enough.

Eventually we moved to a new fishing spot on a concrete pier next to the boat landing. The fishing contest had ended and most of the crowd that was there when we arrived was gone.

Phoebe continued to improve with her casting, and it helped that we moved to the pier, where she could cast and reel in her line freely without the tall grass and weeds in her way.

She got a lot of nibbles and her bobber went under several more times, but we couldn’t hook whatever was circling her line. We went through four or five worms.

We were starting to talk about calling it a day when she finally did hook one more. Phoebe reeled it in, and it was another small fish, similar to her earlier catch.

Phoebe could hardly contain herself. She caught two!

I took the obligatory photo of Phoebe with her two fish. Then, I explained to her that the right thing to do was throw them back into the lake, but she wanted Kates to see her haul – and I wasn’t going to fault the girl for being so excited about her first time fishing. Seeing the smile on her face and hearing her thank me for taking her was priceless.

So I put the fish in our bucket, we packed up our belongings and headed home.

Back at the house, Phoebe proudly carried her bucket of fish inside to show Kates.

Tonight I buried them in our back yard.

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