Any parent or grandparent who loves fishing dreams of the day the children are finally old enough to pick up a rod. Oh the lucky child with a mom or dad, uncle or aunt, or grandparent who loves fishing. If they all love fishing then it can sometimes mean an arms race: who buys the first rod; who takes them; where do they go?
Let's be clear, children are another excuse to go fishing. Eager youngsters are legitimate cover for an extra fishing trip. "Gee honey, I know I said I'd get to that honey-do list, but I promised the kids." It's good for them, right? We all have big ideas for that first trip, the mentoring moments, the wonder on their faces at their first catch, how awesome it will be to show them how it's done. And well, you get to fish!
So all the gear and snacks are packed and the spouse presses the sunscreen into your hand as you rush the soon-to-be-real-fisherfolk out the door leaving time to stop for bait and get a good spot on Nanaquaket Bridge to line them up with their rods. You can't wait to be their fishing sensei.
The reality bomb drops almost as soon as you get to the Bridge. For me it went something like this. It started with setting the kids up and baiting their hooks. Those sea worms are fascinating in the bait box but one of the kids is not willing to touch them. So, after watching her struggle and fail to bait the hook by impaling the writhing worm from a distance like a matador, I take over the job. With her hook baited, I turn to check on the other one who, unlike the first, is happy to touch the worms. In fact, she's removed them all from the box, named each of them, and is making conversation with them. I wasn't prepared for this. After a brief conversation about the worm's role in the food chain and with two hooks baited and in the water I turn to my own tackle but before I can so much as pick up my fishing rod there's a line stuck way over there somewhere and a child yanking for her life. Meanwhile the other child likes casting too much to try fishing and requires constant eyeballs to make sure she's not presenting a danger to others. Who knows where the worm is.
If you've fished with children you know how this story ends. The not-so-secret secret is, if you go fishing with children you rarely if ever actually get to fish.
I wouldn't call them avid fishermen but my children's association with their grandparents, great-grandparents and our family is deeply tied to their fishing and coastal experiences in Tiverton. As they've grown older, in this day of so many distractions, bridge fishing as a quiet pastime is an easy way to hang together outdoors. We see many other parents on the bridge who have the good sense to value that time with their children, even if they are baiting their hooks for them.
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