The Gift of A Lifetime
Some 40 odd years ago a grey haired man stood on a bridge with a young boy looking at a bobber floating below in the Arkansas River in Wichita, Kansas. As the old man leaned over the railing to look at some ducks that were swimming by under the bridge something fell from his shirt pocket and into the river. Ploooop ! Well there goes my teeth Grandpa told me with a wry smile on his face and lips flapping, as they tended to do when he talked without his teeth. I was about 6 years old at that time and don’t remember whether we caught a fish or not but that memory was the first I have of Grandpa taking me fishing and one that I’ll have and cherish for the rest of my life. My dad wasn’t much of a fisherman but was always willing and ready to go along when Grandpa wanted to take me fishing. I remember a trip we went on out of Rehobeth Beach, Maryland in the Atlantic. I was around 8 years old. It was the first time I had gone salt water fishing. I don’t remember whether we caught fish or not but I do remember my poor Dad either hanging over the side of the boat, and he wasn’t dropping his glasses either, or laying in the cabin on the bunk moaning. Poor Dad. Those early fishing trips kindled a fondness for fishing in me that has grown into a passion. There isn’t much I’d rather be doing than fishing. Even though I’m guiding full time now it is still the best way for me to relax and get things into perspective. Whether it’s just watching the line peel off my reel after a cast and float gently to the water or watching a Heron stalk breakfast along the bank across the cove I’m fishing I can’t imagine a better way to relax. And of course hooking a largemouth and watching him thrash the surface on the end of my line isn’t too bad either, but just being on the water is still often a very magical time for me. I see that same magic on the faces of the young children I occasionally get the privilege of taking fishing. Every summer there is a tournament on Lake Conroe to benefit the Sunshine Kids. These kids are very special indeed, and I usually benefit much more than they do from the fishing trips we enjoy together. You can feel the excitement in the air the morning of the tournament when the Ladies from Houston Fish, the Bass Club that sponsors the tournament each year, are pairing up the young anglers with their guides for the day. There isn’t money enough in the world to buy the kind of satisfaction one gets from taking a kid fishing. It doesn’t matter whether you are cat fishing, white bass fishing, crappie fishing or bream fishing children always enjoy themselves. It doesn’t have to be in a fancy boat or even a boat at all. Some of my fondest memories are fishing a small pond or creek from the bank. You don’t even have to catch a lot of fish just point out the wonders of nature that are always around us but not often enjoyed. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment either. A cane pole will do just fine. If you aren’t a regular fisherman ask the guy at the local tackle store or marina for some help or look up a local fishing guide and tell him you need some help. You’ll find that all fishermen will be willing and often eager to help you enjoy your fishing more. Make taking a kid fishing a regular event in your life. Take your son or daughter, niece or nephew or just one of the neighborhood kids. You’ll be giving them a gift that money can’t buy, they can’t lose, the dog won’t chew up and that they will have for the rest of their life. Hopefully you’ll spark in them what my Grandpa did for me and that fishing will be as good for their soul as it will be for yours.
My name is Eric Melson, I work for a non-profit called Public Land Solutions (PLS). We’ve been contracted through the state of New Mexico’s Economic Development Department and the