A simple summer plan becomes a weekly ritual where fishing is only part of the fun.
[by Ben Romans]
EARLY LAST JUNE, I TOLD THE WIFE, “It’s summer; they should enjoy it!” when I broached the idea of Fish Fridays—a weekly series of angling-themed excursions to celebrate the season, revel in our two young boys’ youth, save money on summer camps, and make good on my never-ending pledge to spend as much time outdoors with them as I can.
As is the case with most of my good intentions, the first outing went south—fast. Gale-force winds made it not only sickening to be in the boat, but also borderline unsafe. Total time on the water for the inaugural Fish Friday? Sixty minutes, give or take.
But we were back at it the week after. Mother Nature cooperated, the river was terrifically clear, and we even managed to find a few fish. At one point, my youngest accidentally dropped his Spider-Man-themed Shakespeare fishing rod over the side of the boat. It disappeared into the depths in the blink of an eye, and just as fast, the little guy burst into tears.
Luckily, the kid pressed the reel’s release button before losing his grip. Just as the rod settled on the river bottom, a red-and-white bobber attached to the line began floating to the surface and magically reappeared a few yards downstream. I grabbed it and collected line hand-over-hand until I reached the end of the spool, and the rod. I’ll never forget the look in the boy’s eye when Dad was able to make everything right in his world.
Week four was a highlight. The Kodak moment came courtesy of a catfish, the likes of which are plentiful in the lower Snake River, and easily fooled by streamers. I let my oldest reel it in, and it was all my littlest could do to fit the fish’s head into the basket of a wood-and-nylon trout net Grandpa got him for his fourth birthday.
They had no idea what to do with such a big fish in the boat, and as it croaked and writhed, both boys took cautious steps backwards and competed for space in the bow of the boat, as far away from the catfish as they could get. I laughed, decided it would be mean to tease them, palmed the cat behind the head, and lowered it back into the water. High fives all around, a true team effort, though they acted as though they’d caught it themselves, and if you asked either one to tell the story today, it was they, not I, who boated the fish.
The tough weeks were those when I traveled, and if I couldn’t be home on Friday, we’d make up the time in some other fashion. On weeks seven and nine, we stared for almost an hour into the fish tanks at Cabela’s. Another week, we sought out cooler temps in a mountain stream and elected to mingle with the fish instead of trying to catch them. Donning swim masks, snorkels, and life vests, both boys took turns holding my hand while floating in the current so they could get up close and personal with the chubs, whitefish, and trout fry swirling in the eddy on the back side of my ankles.
Sadly, as quickly as it arrived, summer—and Fish Fridays—ended.
The final tally: only a handful of days on the water, dozens of fish either sighted or boated, and likely more money spent on gas, snacks, juices, and superhero-branded sunscreen than I care to add up. But, if I may dust off an old ad slogan as I head into the dark days of winter, the memories are priceless, and I can’t wait for the days to get long again.