Having spent most of my life obsessed with fishing and the last decade and a half tournament angling for bass, a few years back I began to feel that something was missing. My two boys, Clayton age 12 and Phillip age 7, had been growing up fast and I’d spent too much time away from home and missed too many of those little gems of experiences that we look back on fondly as we enter our golden years. An angling mentor of mine had once told me that the angling gene or desire (he wasn’t sure) usually skips a generation, but I wouldn’t hear of it. I’ve been working with my 12 year old for a few years hoping to ready him to fish tournaments, but only had marginal success. This year my oldest has been a little more motivated and I wanted to run with it.
One day after I picked them up from school, I talked Clayton into taking the baitcasting reel and rod into the back yard and playing around or practicing with it. For those who aren’t familiar with the baitcasting reel, it offers a more powerful winch-like ability to handle larger fish but takes a bit more practice to master. Unless controlled, the spool can overrun and result in an often knotted mess known as a backlash. He’d grown up with the spincast reel and the simplicity and ease of casting that it offers. I’ve been telling him that he will eventually need to make the switch for more versatility. In his mind simplicity trumps versatility. I hoped that somehow I could be more convincing. I tightened the spool tension down quite a bit to avoid bird’s nests or backlashes and he was having a time with it for the first few minutes. He has always been a little more mentally rather than physically gifted. After awhile Phillip came out and began watching and saying he wanted to try. He always wants to do what Clayton is doing and this usually infuriates his older brother. Clayton laughed at him and told him he’d screw up the spool. Phillip insisted that he could do it. Clayton, always eager to take advantage of his younger brother, bet him a dollar that he’d get a bird’s nest on his first cast. Phillip insisted on five dollars. Clayton said “OK, it’s your loss.” Phillip took the rod and reel and without any instruction cast the little plug out about 10 yards. Clayton cried out “Oh my God, he didn’t backlash. I can’t believe it!” True to his word, he went inside and got a five dollar bill and gave it to Phillip and then proceeded to plot on how to get it back.
Tickled pink that they were in the yard practicing, I rigged up another rod and reel so that they could both go at it simultaneously. Knowing he found a way to get his money back, Clayton bet Phillip five dollars for the first one who could cast over the fence at a distance of about 20-25 yards. He had already done it once and knew he had a sure thing. I finally stepped in and said that they shouldn’t be betting their money. Knowing how things often spiral out of control when it comes to parenting those two, I had visions of them shooting craps by the time their mother got home from work. I couldn’t allow it to go on. I thought for awhile and against my better judgment offered this solution: I’d place a couple of hoola-hoops in the yard about 15-20 yards away and give them $2 for each time they made it inside the hoop. I knew my wife would be upset at paying the kids to fish once again, but I took the plunge and did it anyway not wanting to foil the momentum of their training. Besides, I love contests and what could it hurt; no one can be that accurate their first time out. At least I put an end to their betting for the time being as Phillip gave Clayton his $5 back. In the first 10 minutes or so the score was Phillip – $6, Clayton – $0. I’m sure Clayton’s anger at his younger brother didn’t help his accuracy. Phillip was also celebrating after each win with arms raised, an annoying little song, and his little booty shake and that also gets on his older brother’s nerves. I had to pick a few of Phillip’s bird nests out, but for the most part he was just slinging it out without really even using his thumb. This was truly bizarre! Clayton picked out most of his and none were really big and bad.
Phillip reached my imposed limit and was able to get all of his homework done before Clayton finished and had to come in. All in all I lost $28 and some of my dignity. I listened to my inevitable chiding by my wife. Hadn’t I learned my lesson when I paid Clayton ten cents an inch for his 30 bluegill that he found along the Lake Hefner dam when he was about 8 years old? I guess not. I tried to convince the kids that while this party was over, that they shouldn’t abandon their newly aquired skills. I assured the boys that their casting for cash had come to an end. At least in the backyard. To some this could represent a common parenting mistake to learn from but I couldn’t help but see it as an episode in a series to be continued at a tournament lake soon.