“Boys, wait your turn!” says Ayden with the authority of a 5 year old vice-principal.
“Pet that rainbow,” grunts Grady, disregarding his big sister, throwing a territorial elbow and leaning precariously over the gunwale.
“Dada, Dada… I wanna… I wanna,” whines Everett, scrambling frantically over the oars and lunging into the fray.
I doubt this is what the life jacket designer had in mind when drawing up his product, but it’s most likely how any of our kids will end-up getting some real use out of them. Steven’s been hooked up for all of three seconds, we’ve not yet caught a glimpse of the alleged fish, and the melee for petting position has already devolved into a full blown scrum. It happens like this every time.
“I get the net!” claims Ayden .
“Dada can I do… um, the fish net?” appeals Everett.
“Pet that rainbow,” grunts Grady stretching farther out over the water.
You’d have thought Steven was reeling in a red wagon full of puppies. The miniature Three Stooges routine they’re performing would be pretty entertaining if we weren’t trying to play a fish, manage boat position and keep everyone out of the drink. As it is, they’re a little distracting.
“It’s mine, cause my dad caught it,” declares Ayden.
“No fair!” protests Everett, verging on tears.
“Fish on!” rasps Grady, eyes on the prize and boots off the deck.
Once netted – by me much to the kids’ chagrin, and just in time to keep the little one from swimming – the real show begins. Picture a Beatles concert circa 1963, only smaller. Everybody’s squealing, star-struck and crowding in for a look with outstretched hands. Grady, never one for beating around the bush, burrows under the huddle and presses his face into the dripping underside of the net.
I’m all for a quick, gentle and humane release. In fact my photographer buddies will tell you that I’m a little too eager to get fish not destined for my plate back into the water. But sometimes it’s worth taking your time. I like to think of fish caught with kids as celebrity ambassadors. Sure all of the extra attention may not be appreciated today, but their fellow trout will thank them tomorrow. By taking a few extra seconds and shouldering a few adoring strokes, these fishy statesmen are helping recruit future advocates and devotees.
And like any great entertainer will tell you, you’ve got to give the public what it wants. If that means I get to fish more, so much the better.