Outdoor Moments: Fishing brings out the kid in an adult

Friday, June 14, 2019
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Alan Charles
Star Outdoors Columnist

The red-and-white bobber wiggled, just a little bit. Then, it bobbed slightly, making a small dimple in the water. I waited. Another wiggle, and it started moving slowly off to one side. I waited a bit longer. Then, bam, I set the hook. The fish pulled back, but I reeled it in, and swung it aboard. Another lunker. A yellow perch, at least seven inches long. I grinned like a kid, and cast out again.

Now, why, do you suppose, was I having such a lark, sitting by myself in a little 12-foot aluminum boat on a small prairie pothole in eastern Montana, pitching angleworms hung under a plastic bobber to panfish not much bigger than the exotic pet store fish your doctor displays in his reception room aquarium?

I mean, I’m a man who has been fishing for more than 60 years. I have fished from the far northern reaches of Canada and Alaska to the southern climes of Costa Rica and Mexico, and many of the waters in between. I have owned and operated a fishing charter service on the Gulf of Mexico where, in most years, I spent more than 200 days a year fishing. I have fished in, and occasionally placed in, numerous fishing tournaments, and once was even part of a team that won a third-place prize of $45,000 by catching a 289-pound blue marlin.

So just why, do you suppose, an afternoon spent catching perch on a prairie pond could have me grinning like a kid every time that bobber bobbed? Well, that’s just it. I felt just like a kid again, immersed in the simplicity of the moment. Fishing can do that to an adult.

The little boat was powered by an electric trolling motor, and I had maneuvered it across the little lake to the shoreline that was protected from the wind. I followed a channel that wound back into the cattails, and anchored on a corner, where the water was maybe five feet deep.

The terminal tackle was simple, just a leader with a small sinker on the bottom and two drop leaders set 10 inches apart above the sinker, with the bobber set to hold the rig upright. The small gold hooks held just a pinch of worm, and the casts required only a flip of the wrist.

It was cozy and comfortable back there. Bulrushes rustled in the wind, and several times, I had yellow-headed blackbirds perched on cattails less than five feet away. Ducks quacked, herons croaked, and geese honked. A muskrat swam past, never even acknowledging my presence. A pair of blue-winged teal nearly landed on the boat.

A small turtle surfaced beside my bobber, studying the whole affair, and then submerged. A moment later, the bobber wiggled. I set the hook, but felt no fish. The turtle appeared again, then disappeared. The bobber moved a little. No fish. I reeled in, and waited a bit. This time, the turtle surfaced right beside the boat, looking at me as if to suggest it knew where that bait had gone and was waiting for me to cast it back out.

Fun stuff, these simple little things. The fishing action was fast and constant. I’d cast, and almost immediately get a bite. Sometimes, I caught two perch at a time. Some were very small, less than five inches long, and the big ones never stretched more than 10 inches.

I stayed there for a couple of hours, sometimes dozing in the warm sunlight. It was a wonderful day, filled with the sights and sounds of nature. The fishing was simple and fun. As I drove home toward the setting sun, I opted not to turn on the radio. For just a bit longer, I wanted to hold the moment and pretend I was unaware of all the pressures and politics of the “real” world. For just a little longer, I wanted to feel like a kid again.

( Alan Charles lives and writes in the Pine Hills.)