Miracles happen, and it’s incredible when I get to be a part of them. I’m talking about the great things I’ve seen happen to family relationships during and after fishing trips – the kind of things I don’t see very often in regular life experiences. Why?
I had a trip this year with a father and son around 10-11 years old. The trip was going well but the boy seemed distant and somewhat uninvolved. We were catching fish, but something was missing. What could I do?
I took the boy over to the downriggers and showed him how to work them, then I tested him on each procedure until he got it. The kid was smart and was on it, better than many grownups. He dug in and suddenly became excited – this wasn’t a video game. It was real.
I had him put the lines out, hook up the clips, put the downrigger balls down to the right depths and tell me if he saw any bites. I turned away from him, letting him have full control of the rigger once it was set. Talk about total focus: The kid was asking all kinds of questions while he watched the sonar and wondered if the fish we saw might bite?
That’s when the pole broke loose and he yelled out that there was a fish on. I told him to get the pole and reel like crazy! The joy on his face was radiant. His first all-alone striper was a nice 22 inches. A milestone had been reached in this boy’s life, and I could tell this was exactly what his Dad had hoped would happen for him.
The next few fish just got the boy’s juices flowing and suddenly this kid was Mr Downrigger as his confidence and excitement grew. He was fishing and these were his fish! A rite of passage was taking place. His Dad sat back, smiling, letting him have full rein, encouraging him on each catch that was photographed and sent home to Mom.
The son and dad were emotionally connecting. The boy was suddenly someone completely different than the person who got on my boat eight hours earlier. That’s no small thing in our crazy, chaotic world.
Dad and son hugged at the dock, and it was sincere. Earlier it had been lukewarm between them at best.
I’m no psychologist, but I have to think that being alone together for over eight hours on the water is not the way life goes these days for most families. No cellphone or Facebook interruptions every 30 seconds (I ask them to put them away if possible and enjoy the day!) to fragment any shared time. Many try to take their kids to special things, when all the kids want is to spend the time with you and have your undivided attention. Fishing together can do this.
I got a call after the trip from Dad telling me how wonderful it had been. But the key thing was that he felt that the ongoing emotional distance both he and his wife had felt from their son had finally been broken. They felt they had a new son now. Wow! They were ecstatic. I was touched.
Just a fishing trip? Yep, “never give up!”