Outdoors

A perfect family day on the pond

June 6, 2014 

Wade Stevens, 6, shows his catch.

COURTESY OF THE STEVENS FAMILY

Wade bounded into the house with the joyous leaps and the nervous energy of a 6-year-old.

“I’ve got the snacks, “ he said. “I’ve got the snacks in my bag in case we’re starving.”

We were going fishing — my son, my grandson and me — and nothing seemed to take precedence over making sure we did not perish of hunger on the 4-mile excursion to Uncle Louis’ picturesque farm pond. Those priorities seemed right because I was dubious about our effort.

The pond once was a fisherman’s delight. Uncle Louis fed the bream, crappie, bass and catfish on a regular basis. Red and white bobbers would disappear with exhilarating regularity if you went to the right spot and held your mouth just right. Bare, shiny hooks occasionally evoked bites.

But some dry spells a few years back had reduced the pond’s stature to a 10th of its original size. Fish had died and the surface of the pond had been littered with the carcasses of bass that never again would clamp on a plastic worm and bring delight to some young angler.

The pond had returned to its past glory with winter rains, but our chances seemed slim.

“Are there any fish in that pond anymore?” I asked my son.

“I guess so, “ he said.

“Wade, you’ve got plenty of snacks?” I said, quickly changing my priorities.

“Worms, too, “ he said.

My last fishing trip had been five or six years ago. A car accident and neck injury took the winds out of my fishing sails for a while. Then the pond almost dried up and I got busy doing other things.

But there is nothing like an enthusiastic grandson to get you to unpack rods and reels stored for a move years ago.

The pond was as beautiful as ever and the day was ideal except for a stiff breeze that kept blowing our bait toward the shore. We could have moved, but the little pier was nice ... and there were no worries about a young one falling in.

The first line was baited with a piece of night crawler and thrown out. Instructions were given to watch the bobber, which Wade did for about 30 seconds or so.

“We’ve got snacks for when we’re starving,” he said.

The conversation drifted. My son fussed about the new-fangled bobber that needed to be threaded. I remembered carrying my youngest daughter to the same spot. She had caught a nice bream on her first cast and immediately headed to the car.

“Let’s go, “ she said.

“What?” I asked.

“We came to catch a fish and we caught a fish. Let’s go, “ she said.

We had forgotten to bring snacks.

My other daughter always needed a bottled drink and an oatmeal cookie on her fishing trips. She once had caught a catfish that weighed about 8 pounds. Her father was going to have it mounted until he found out how much a mount costs.

Memories of the past disappeared with Wade’s bobber. He grabbed his rod and began to wind the reel backwards. A little instruction and Wade had his first fish - a fine crappie with some heft.

Wade pranced on the wooden deck like a show horse.

Thoughts of snacks were forgotten. “We’re going to catch 10 fish before we go home, “ he declared.

A few minutes later he went to the car and returned with a store-bought brownie.

“Fishing makes you hungry, “ he said.

Apparently the fish were not hungry.

Wade checked the cardboard worm carton.

“The worms are trying to escape by burrowing down, “ he said. “But I can find them.”

Inattention allowed a bobber to drift close to the shore. It disappeared. The reel broke. Wade pulled in a fat bream with his hands.

“You’re a he-man, Wade. Pulling in a fine fish like that with your bare hands, “ I said.

“Yeah, “ he said.

That one spot near the bank weeds provided eight fish within about an hour. By Wade’s count, I caught one that I don’t remember catching, my son caught one and Wade caught eight. That seemed about right.

We packed up and buckled in for the ride home.

Wade ate a banana and then some chips. He slurped up a juice box.

“I caught eight fish, “ he said contentedly before pausing and saying, “Greypa?”

“What Wade?” I answered.

“I love you.”

Stevens: 919-829-8910 or tstevens@newsobserver.com

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