By Chris Mihailides
Special to Outdoor Enthusiast Lifestyle Magazine
So fishing is my thing. I love to fish. I fish for anything: bass, trout, blues, stripers, fresh, salt, rain, shine, ice, boat, shore. It simply doesn’t matter it’s my thing, so why would it? My other thing, being a dad. Now that’s my thing. I’d do anything for my boys, take em anywhere, do any crazy thing they say, make funny faces, eat bugs or dirt, most importantly guide them to become good men, and yeah, take them fishing. Well, we’ve been going for years, since Kyle was one and Jonathan was four. Kyle, of course, at one didn’t do much fishing, but Jonathan would be catching the heck out of bluegills at that age. I have the pictures to prove it. It wasn’t long before they both had poles in hand, but they didn’t quite take to fishing like the old man did. They mostly fished sporadically, playing catch and wrestling around just being boys. But this was all good, because I’m doing my things, being a dad and fishing and there really ain’t nothing like it on a nice summer evening. Yep, toss in the occasional hotdogs or packed lunches for a nice dinner by the pond with the fellas. Pitch a tent on some nights to do it all over again the next morning. I’d say, “These are the good old days” to myself and pinch myself to be sure it wasn’t a dream. Yep, fishing and my boys, nothing better.
So on one Preserve evening, there we were, hanging at Hobbit House Number One, campfire blazing, marshmallows roasting and The Beatles on my Bluetooth speaker. The fires’ crackling and if I had a nickel for every time I told Kyle to be careful, I’d have a boatload of nickels! But that’s Kyle; he’s into everything, he’s the curious type, and crazy nuts. When he was a about seven month old, Jonathan and I were sitting on the couch watching an episode of his favorite show, Caillou, and Kyle was crawling around in the next room banging pots and pans. Suddenly here he came, entering the room on two feet like a ballerina! He looked at us both and starting belly laughing in excitement as he learned immediately how to walk and he never crawled again. From there he crashed constantly and forever had a bump or a black and blue on his noggin, so I actually bought him a helmet. Yep, a cute blue soft-sided one, similar to the football caps of old and he proudly wore that until he gained his sea legs a few months later. But that’s the type of kid he is, headfirst and headstrong. God I love my sons.
But yes they are different. Jonathan, he’s the mild mannered one. He was a black belt by the time he was 10 and an excellent martial artist but he wouldn’t hurt a hair on a fly’s head. He really is a sweet guy and far more cautious then his kid brother, and a heck of a lot more agreeable! But damn, they both stole my heart from day one. I co-raise them with their mom, we’re great parents and great friends, just not a great couple. Enough said there.
So here we are, hanging at The Preserve. I had always wanted to spend the night in one of The Hobbit Houses get up early and fish the main pond. We stock that one with tons of fish and it really doesn’t get fished all too often so I expected we have a few sizeable large-mouths waiting for me to cook for din-din the night we catch them. What a great night The Preserve team had set up for us. Hobbit House One was ready with three cots with bearskin blankets, firewood, a cooler packed with snack and juices, lanterns, matches and of course all the fishing equipment for our morning adventure. One nice touch was someone put out a telescope so that we could do a bit of stargazing up close and personal. Boy they think of everything. What a night we had. I read funny ghost stories and we laughed and joked and pretended we were Hobbits. It was awesome. Yes we did have to put a movie on the iPhone because I think the kids would have revolted as electronics are a necessary evil with my boys at this age, which by the way was 12 and 9. They passed out watching Ant Man and I set my phone alarm for 6:00 am.
In the morning, I relit the fire and it wasn’t long before we had scrambled eggs and bacon for all! By the time I was done cooking, the boys were up and ready to go. We ate quickly, packed up our gear onto one of The Preserve Gators, an all-terrain vehicle about as cool as anything to drive, and off to the main pond we went. When we arrived, there was a canoe waiting for us along with some live bait. Man is this place class or what? We loaded our canoe and onto the pond we went. Wow, were they ever hitting and my boys were catching like crazy. So much so, I couldn’t even fish as I was constantly assisting them with unhooking fish, taking pictures, baiting hooks; you get the drill. But we were catching and releasing as nothing was big enough for dinner tonight, although collectively we could have fed an army with all we caught and released.
We fished through the morning and simply had a blast. We must have caught and released 100 fish that day. As I said to the boys, “Ok fellas, it’s time to head in,” Jonathan said, “One more fish dad, please?!” I said “Ok with you Kyle?” He nodded in approval and I put a final shiner onto Jonathans hook. “Great cast son, right on the edge of the lily pads,” I said. Dink, dink, dink and bang, he got thumped! This was no little thump, this kid was fishing was a sizeable heavy medium shiner and it got thumped hard with a splash! “Ok Jonathon, your under, wait, wait, he’s running, set the hook now!” I yelled. Jonathan closed his bail, put his rod tip close to the water straight ahead as his line tension grew, he set the hook with a strong pull up! “Bang” I screamed as his pole bent nearly in half. “You got him son, don’t lose him,” I said excitedly. He started reeling and laughing with excitement. Our last catch of the day was going to be a monster!! I knew my son had it under control and in an instant, snap! His line broke and the excitement instantly drained out of me and my sons. What a bummer, it snapped an eight pound test line. As the glass half full dad, I said, “You almost had him son, and it’s a great way to end a great day of fishing.”
Kyle then points and yells, “Dad, there he is!” Sure enough, about twenty feet from the boat was a dobber-FYI, we Rhode Islanders call them dobbers not bobbers-floating around with an obvious fish on the end of the hook attached. Up and down it went, disappearing beneath the surface every few seconds and then reappearing. Bloop, it would be gone and then pop up 20 feet away seconds later. It was funny to watch. I said, “Let’s get ‘em son’s, I know just the trick! You want to try son?” Jonathan said, “Yes dad, it’s my fish and I want him!”
“Ok so this is what we have to do,” I said, adding, “Paddles out of the water and dad will only paddle the boat. Kyle, you keep an eye out on that dobber and Jonathan when we get close, I want you to put the tip of the pole straight up and down, splash it into the water and twirl it around the dobber as fast and as often as you can!” So the hunt began. I quietly paddled at Kyle’s direction toward the dobber. Bloop, it was gone only to surface several feet away. We pursued it slowly and quietly. Bloop, it would disappear and surface out of Jonathan’s reach. Man, this was fun and frustrating all at the same time. No one was willing to give up so this went on for about 40 minutes. Bloop it was gone. And now it’s nowhere to be seen. Kyle then turned and whispered, as well as Kyle can whisper, “Guys, look down!” Sure enough, just six inches or so from the boat was the dobber! Jonathan picked up his pole ever so quietly, stuffed the tip in and started spinning around the dobber! It worked, the line snagged and was tangled on the eyes of the pole. Up it came! That bass flopped on the boat, flipping around and I grabbed him and put him on the stringer. This was one heck of a largemouth bass!! “Woo hoo, we got ‘em!!!” Jonathan screamed. Wow, he’s huge! Can I touch it?” screamed Kyle. “Wow, way to go sons, we got him and we also got ourselves dinner tonight!” I said through a big smile.
This fish was beautiful and although we never weighed it, I had to figure he was a good five pounds. Of course Kyle got to touch it and Jonathan got to hold it for his trophy photo. As we sat around the fire cooking the catch of the day up, we laughed about how we caught this one. “No one is going to believe us dad”, said Kyle. I said, “Sure they will sons, we don’t lie. And let’s not forget, I got the pictures to prove it!”
“That was the best catch ever, huh dad” said Jonathan. I replied, “Sure was son, it sure was.”