Al Campbell, Field Editor

April 15th, 2002

What Do You See?
By Al Campbell

What do you see when you look at this picture? A boy with a fish? Maybe the vest that's about a dozen sizes too big? That big smile might be the first thing you looked at. Then again, somebody's going to complain that he isn't holding the fish right or that he's holding it out of the water. I see something else.

When I look at that picture, I see an opportunity that didn't pass. I see Dennis (that's his name) enjoying a day on the water with his father (not pictured). I see a boy who learned to cast a fly before he reached the ripe old age of seven. I see a smile that comes from the heart of a boy who's spending the day with someone who cares.

Too many of the kids in this world are being lost to the streets, drugs, and TV by non-caring parents. Too many kids are left to their own resources when it comes to time and recreation opportunities. Too many kids are just being lost.

I suppose our society is to blame for much of it. We are forced to bring home more than one paycheck to make ends meet. Too many homes are broken with the kids in the middle of a bad situation. Living in this anti-everything society often leads our kids to believe that outdoor recreation, especially if it involves fishing or hunting, is somehow bad or evil. School teachers often embrace and stress the idea that fishing and hunting are bad. Some parents are so selfishly wrapped up in their own lives and activities that the kids are discarded like little munchkins who get in the way of their plans and desires. Some kids never make it to birth, discarded before they even have a chance to breathe air or cry.

As fly-fishermen, we often take this sport too seriously. We get wrapped up in tying flies, building rods, the next big hatch and even this site. We argue over the way a fly is tied, how to set planing forms to match someone's taper, whether it's better to fish dries or nymphs, how somebody wrote an article, or anything else we don't fully agree with. We boast that we only fish with flies, only cast upstream, always release our catch, and always use barbless hooks hoping that will make us look better in the eyes of other critical people. We do this while our kids are playing video games or watching TV or out on the streets.

Many of our group would never think of putting a worm on a hook, suspending it from a bobber and teaching our kids how to catch a bluegill. To many people who boast flyfishing as their hobby, bait is thought to be unethical. Others feel that killing a fish is somehow unethical or bad. We've made our own laws, our own taboos, our own rules of behavior, and sometimes those rules exclude our kids from the game.

Many of our kids, grandkids and neighbor's kids grow up without experiencing the thrill of watching a bobber dip as a panfish takes the bait toward the bottom of a lake. They don't know what it's like to hold a fish, know how it smells, or feel how slippery it can be. They don't know what it's like to go on a special trip with a parent, grandparent or neighbor. We don't let them get wet, dirty, smelly or in the way. They are too young to fly-fish, too young to cast the way we do, too young to talk right in adult company, too young for our activities and too young to be included in our lives. After all, we are serious fishermen, and we wouldn't want anyone to think we have lowered our standards, would we?

When the weather gets a little nicer, I'm going to catch nightcrawlers on the lawn one Friday night with my grandkids and we'll go bluegill fishing on Saturday. We'll get dirty, smelly, wet and load up on treats a mother would faint over, but a kid would love. The grandkids will learn a bit more about how to hold a fish and release it if we don't plan to keep it. They'll learn where fish live, how they behave and later, how they taste. We'll keep a few bluegills for the table and discuss the balance of nature that would be affected if we took too many. We'll all sleep better that night; the kids because they are exhausted, and me because I got to share some of their time and life. It will be a good day; it always is when we go away clean and return smelly, dirty and happy.

What do you see when you look at that picture? I see an opportunity so valuable a father or grandfather or neighbor couldn't let it pass. Do you? ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns
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