The back of the van was loaded with a large Simms fly fishing gear bag. Alongside was an Orvis carry-all rod and reel case loaded with an arsenal of fly gear to take on any trout stream in the pacific northwest. A quick double-check to be sure I wasn’t missing anything, and it was time to go.
“Hey Dad!” Mason called from the backseat, as I backed the van out of the driveway.
“Did you get the fly rod, Dad?” He asked, with charm.
“Are we going to catch the FISH!” He screamed.
“Yep, we are going to catch bluegill!” I said happily, and put the van in drive.
“No we’re not, Dad. We aren’t.”
“We are not what?” I asked.
“We are not going to catch blue gill.” He said with confidence. “We are going to catch CRAPPIE”.
I looked back at him to find no smile on his face. Instead the look of bitter disappointment met my eyes. How could I have been so wrong? Of course we were catching crappie, what was I thinking? I hadn’t even gotten out of the driveway and I was already wrong.
“Okay!” I said, and we drove off to Terry Day Park to prospect for bluegill.
At first glance there is no pond to be found at Terry Day Park. From the play area all you see is a lot of open grass that seemingly leads to more walking paths that would later connect with the Boise greenbelt…hypothetically. However if you walk to the end of the grassy field you would find there is a slight incline, which hides the little pond full of happiness.
I met up with a stay-at-home-mom and her kids, and after a bit of playtime I made the suggestion that we go look for fish. Her four year old, Quinton, lit up at the possibility of seeing fish. And Mason wanted out of his swing to join the fun. The two boys led the way to the pond, running as fast as they could while we followed behind. Little bluegill were spotted immediately, so we headed back to the van to gear up.
Cruz was secured comfortably on my back in the Osprey pack, and Mason and his friend Quinton once again lead the way to the pond.
“Okay guys, stay on this side of me.” I said pointing to my left side. There was no need to make a serious cast, but to be on the safe side I figured it wouldn’t hurt to get them out of the way of the hook.
“Do you see the fish right there guys?” I asked. Both boys watched as I flicked the small fly out into the water. The little size 14 pheasant tail hardly made a splash, but the fish were on it in a flash.
“There we go!” I said, hoisting up a little bluegill.
“A fish! Mom he caught a fish!” Quinton yelled over to his mom that was standing right beside us.
“Yes, that didn’t take long.” She said, as her little girl, Autumn, also became very interested in the wiggling fish.
“Can I touch it, Dad?” Mason asked.
“Of course.” I said, and hands from each child went out to touch the side of the fish, one by one batting it around like a mini piñata.
“Okay better get it back into the water.” I said, and unhooked the bluegill as it bolted away.
“There it goes, I see it!” Quinton yelled, and Mason giggled with absolute delight.
“Another fish?” Mason asked, and I wasn’t going to disappoint.
A second flick got a second fish, and the kids loved it.
“I want to feed it!” Quinton said, holding a large blade of grass.
“What?” I asked, “Feed it?”
“I want to feed it too.” Mason said, holding a tiny stick.
“Okay, but make it quick.” I said, and held the fish out to them. Each of them stuffed their food for the fish in its mouth. Even little Autumn had a treat for the fish: the smallest dried grass clipping you could possibly imagine. The little fish hung from its gapping mouth, and by the time the kids were done the fish looked at me with a just-kill-me-nowlook on its face.
“That’s very nice guys, the fish is very full now.” I said, turning the fish away from the kids and pulling out the foodbefore letting it go.
The boys were fixed on the fish that swam away, but Autumn walked right up to me and held the fly rod.
“I want to do this.” She said, in such a light sweet voice you would have thought she inhaled helium before asking.
“Of course!” I said, but she already had the rod in her hand. I made a small cast and the fly landed near a fish. Autumn took one step closer to get a better look, but it was one step too far. She fell forward getting one shoe in the water before I caught her from doing a face plant in the muck.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” The misstep scared her and I placed her down to run back to her mom. But there was another problem. Around her little feet was tangled fly line. Fly line does two things really well: casts and tangles, and it will tangle before it will cast… if it gets the opportunity. I held Autumn from tripping again as I untangled the fly line, but she did not know that. To Autumn I was keeping her from running to her mom, and if I thought her first scream was loud, it was nothing in comparison as to what came next.
“GGGGGRRRRAAAAAAAHHH” Little Autumn screaming could rival any full-grown Mandrake, which made untangling her more difficult. Still, among the kicking and flapping, I got the fly line off of her feet and she ran to her mom. I took a breath of relief, but before I could exhale Mason spoke.
“Dad, can we catch a fish now?”
I looked over at Mason and Quinton who were not at all fazed by Autumn’s eruption.
“Okay guys do you want to pick another fly?” I asked, taking out the fly box and opening it for them to look at.
“I want this one.” Quinton said, taking out a shiny green beetle.
“The Pico spider?” I said.
“Ohhh, the Pink-O spider!” Mason squeaked with delight. Mason has seen me tie Pico spiders at the tying bench at home, and seemed to be happy that one was at the end of the line.
The spider slapped down on the water and was taken immediately.
“Can I want to catch it, Dad?” Mason asked.
“Sure man.” I said. Mason took hold of the handle as Quinton helped by holding the midsection of the fly rod. Mason reeled and reeled the line.
“Oh, Mason, can you reel the other way?” I asked, as he began to create a little bird’s nest with the line. Both boys looked at the reel as Mason reversed his reeling, creating tremendous slack in the line.
“Just walk backwards guys!” I coached, and they did until the larger bluegill was flopping on the shore.
“You did it!” Mason yelled to Quinton, “And my did it!” He finished saying, still struggling with his pronouns.
You would think the fish was being healed with the art of Reiki with as many times as the boys had to touch it before releasing it. Still, the little flipper darted away, and the boys reacted to it like it was the first time they had ever seen such a display.
“Um, can I bring in the fish?” Quinton asked ever so politely.
“Yes you can!” I said, and hooked into a fish and handed Quinton the fly rod. Quinton is a year older than Mason and was able to hold up the fly rod and reel the correct way all by himself. Mason stood by his side, more concerned that he had just stepped in some goose poop.
The fish was nearly in when Quinton hoisted the fly rod back over his head. The tip of the rod almost touched the ground, and Quinton started walking backwards.
“Whoa, hold on man!” I said, but he had quickly corrected the fly rod and the fish was landed.
The boys got to touch one last fish before it was time to regroup with Quinton’s mom, who had taken Autumn back to the playground.
“Well was that fun?” I asked Mason who was walking with me.
“Yeah! I think it was, Dad” Mason said, matter-of-factly.
“How about you, Quinton?”
“Yep!” He said, and ran over to where his mom had set up all kinds of lunch treats for her kids. Damn, I was so focused on getting all my fly gear in the car I had completely forgot about a snack for the kids.
“Dad, can I have a carrot?” Mason asked, watching Quinton and Autumn munching on them. Despite the great fishing I felt like a complete failure.
“Sorry man, I forgot a snack for you guys.”
“Oh, he can have some of ours.” Laura, Quinton and Autumn’s mom, said to me. Mason scooped up some baby carrots and started munching loudly. I still couldn’t believe I had forgotten something for the boys to munch on, but still there was one last card to play.
“Tell you what, Mason. How about I take you to Das Alpenhaus for lunch today?!” Das Alpenhaus is Mason’s favorite place to eat, and he nodded his head yes so vigorously I was surprised it didn’t fly off his shoulders. We quickly said goodbye to our friends and drove up to Das Alpenhaus. Mason recognized it immediately and flopped around in his seat like a bluegill being fed sticks and grass for lunch. Inside we ordered a plate of schnitzel and home-style fries, which the boys had no problem eating up. This was a great was to finish off the first half of our day.