Outing #3: Fishing and “He likes it! Hey, Mikey!”

We knocked out our latest outing of the Dads’ Bucket List by taking the little troopers fishing.  I’m not going to sugar coat this experience with a bunch of nonsense about how I remember being a kid and going fishing with my dad, and oh what times we had.  I did go fishing a couple times growing up and what I remember could be summed up in one word: BOOOOOOOR-ING!  You weren’t supposed to talk.  When your line wasn’t caught in the trees you’d cast it in the water and just sit there and wait and wait and wait, hoping the bite that was never going to come was going to come.  After many hours when the bite did come, whatever bit the line ended up getting away.  I’m a bit of a results guy and basically I never saw many when it came to fishing.  Despite my background or lack thereof when it comes to fishing, I was all about making this happen because the kids were fired up about landing a whopper or as my 4-year-old son, Bo, boldly declared “Dad, I’m going to catch a great white shark.”  Uh, right-o.

A good day fishing!

Anyways, back to the outing.  Our squadron leader on this one was Grant Campbell.  In fishing circles, he’s known as the Fish Whisperer.  We met up (7 dads, 11 kids) in the parking lot of the Buford Trout Hatchery.  We knew Grant was the goods when he pulls into the parking lot unloads like 14 rods and then opens this tackle box that expands with 5 levels of lures, bobbers and anything else you need to fish.  In comparison, my converted Toys “R” Us kids toolbox filled with dental floss and drywall screws didn’t quite measure up (“Dad, can we use Mr Campbell’s stuff?”).  After checking out and feeding the million fish in the tanks at the trout hatchery, Grant led us off into a trail that would take us to our fishing pond.  This is where it got a little sketchy because within like 30 seconds Grant’s gone.  The trail immediately starts to get rustic and less defined and I start having flashbacks of scenes from the Blair Witch Project.  I’m schlepping a cooler full of snacks thinking about what my line’s going to be when the killer witch jumps out from behind a tree.  “Hey, you want a juice box before you add us to the stew?”  Mercifully, after a few more creeepy minutes we hustled the kiddies through an opening of poison oak and there standing before us was the awesome Family Fishing Pond (that apparently doesn’t even have trout in it, but I won’t get started on that).

Grant Campbell taking the lead

This is when the real fun began to kick in.  The kids were all over us to get their lines baited so they could start fishing.  Before I even had the cooler down I heard an “I got one” and turned to see Leighton McIntosh reeling her first bream.  Right after that I heard a proud Tony Lamb yell, “that a boy, Jackie” as his son bagged his first.  My two little guys, Blake and Bo, wanted in on the action and were all over me to get their lines baited so they could get in on the bounty.  At this point, I’ve got to be honest that under the pressure to move fast and make things happen I just bonked.  I mean I wanted to show them the old man knew what the heck was going on, but I was clueless.  I tied on a hook put on some bait and within one cast they both came back and said “hey dad, I lost my hook.”  I’m not the brightest lure in the box, but I know that when you’re out of your element you seek out the expert so that’s why I swallowed any pride that was left and said, “let’s ALL go find Mr. Campbell“.  Grant delivered with new hooks, bait, techniques and even suggested to my boys (rightfully so) that they leave their dad in the car next time.  

We were now ALL fishing and what was to come next was pretty unbelievable.  I’m standing there watching Grant fish trying to pick up some tips when all of a sudden he’s got a bite on the line.  As cool as a Clint Eastwood character, Grant looks over his shoulder to his buddy Kevin Branch and says, “You’re not gonna believe what I’ve got”.  Hell, for all I know, he actually did catch a great white shark!  He starts pulling something in and we’re all trying to figure out what it’s going to be because we can’t see through the top green layer of water.  Stud Campbell gets this thing to the edge and has snagged…wait for it….a HUGE snapping turtle with a shell about the diameter of a car tire.  A SNAPPING FRIGGIN’ TURTLE! The guy is the master.  After deciding that having all his fingers was more important than some homemade turtle soup he cut the line and let the thing stay in the pond. 

This monster snapping turtle was no match for King Campbell

There were many more good moments to be had like Tony running around with his manly garden gloves on to keep from touching the slimy fish.  There was James McIntosh who was probably our youngest fisherman, but also our most productive.  There was Phil and Jack McWard who came up empty, but still had big smiles on their faces when we were humping it back to the car.  
And then there was this dad who kept casting my line into the water even after my boys had wandered to another part of the pond.  I caught a couple and continued to fish.  The longer I did it the more I enjoyed it.  Kind of like the Life cereal commercial from back in the day with the surprised brothers incredulously saying “He Likes it! Hey, Mikey!”.  The look on my face must have conveyed this because Mike McIntosh came up and said “See?  I told you that you’d like it”.  Maybe that’s part of the lesson to take away from this experience.  A lot of times in life we may forget why we don’t like to do something and never give it a second chance.  As dads we owe it to our kids to provide them with experiences even if it’s something we don’t enjoy or better yet that we think we don’t enjoy.  For me, today was a good reminder that sometimes we need to give second chances, to cast that line in the water a few more times because you might find that you actually enjoy what you reel out. 

Blake bags one!

And there was one more big payoff that happened hours after the outing had ended.  That night as my family was finishing dinner and the boys were practicing their casts off the back of the deck, they both looked over and asked “Dad, will you take us fishing again tomorrow?”  Go. See. Be. Do.
P.S. Thanks again to Grant for setting this one up.  If other dads have some thoughts for future monthly outings or know other dads we need to get involved, please pass the ideas and names along.   

About Matt Boettcher - Dads' Bucket List

Husband and dad to two boys who's always trying to enjoy the humor and meaning in the journey of fatherhood. Check out how things are going at: http://dadsbucketlist.com In addition to these responsibilities I'm also an avid (some would say obsessive) sports fan, very amateur gardener, aging but still active runner, and an always willing to experience a new country traveler.
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