Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Compleat Angler

Last year, while spending fall break with family friends down in the Tampa Bay area, my nine-year-old nephew, Easton, went fishing. Just like his father, Easton is a fishing fanatic. While his Dad has probably taught me more about angling than anyone else I know, Easton will most likely soon surpass my knowledge of the sport and begin mentoring me in the near future.

As evidence of that, on that warm October day, Easton grabbed his fishing rod – not Dad’s and not his older brother Parker’s, but his rod – and launched a cast into the gentle surf of the Gulf of Mexico. While his fishing companions went with shrimp for their bait of choice, Easton rigged up a feisty pinfish, hooking his bait through the lips to allow for maximum movement.

While the rest of the family and friends sat on the beach, enjoying the nice day and trading various stories of vacations gone by, Easton stared at his line, which bounced softly in the waves. He was in the zone. I’ve seen him do this. While most of his waking minutes are frantically spent in energetic bursts of activity, Easton can be impressively focused on fishing. He’s only nine, but fish already fear him.

Promptly, the pinfish began to panic. Easton noticed his line shake, then watched the tip of his rod deliberately nod to the ocean. He slowly gripped the cork ahead of his reel and carefully pulled the rod from the sand-spike. When he did, the line became taught and zipped through the rod’s guides, making a whistling noise that betrayed the presence of a large fish at the terminal end.

Easton held the line tight, as the circle hook set into the fish’s mouth and he listened to his reel scream as the drag labored to stop the initial run of his catch. Thirty-yards offshore, the water exploded, as an angry fish leaped and crashed into the surf.


Easton’s family, along with a throng of sunbathing onlookers, had taken notice and ran down the beach to watch the nine-year-old do battle with a trophy fish. He expertly played the line-sider, allowing it line when it ran, then reeling it back when given slack.

His Dad coached him, but it was simply an affirmation of lessons already taught and learned. Easton appropriately pressured the fish until it eventually wore down from the fight. He slowly guided the snook into the shallow wade-gut, where it was lifted by the waves and deposited into the foam on the beach. The celebration began as his Dad proudly lifted the flopping fish from the water and his Mom ran for the camera. The common snook measured 31 inches from nose to tail, and Easton carefully lifted the fish from the sand and posed for his trophy shot.

I’ve seen the resulting photo. The fish is huge and beautiful and the blond-headed, nine-year-old kid holding it has a little smirk on his face, as if he knew this would happen all along.

Last week, the nine-year-old got one year older. And for his birthday, I presented him with a painting of that magnificent catch.

No comments: