“Dada, Dada I got a big, BIG one! Look!”
“Sweet. Don’t lose him.”
“The red breasted robin wants to eat him, but I won’t let him cause it’s mine and the trout’s gonna eat him when we CATCH it and he must be real yummy cause everyone wants to eat him cause see Dada?”
“I guess so. Do you want to eat him?
“Um…. No thank you…um… I’ll just put him in the can with his friends.”
I’ve talked with more people than I can count about introducing little kids to fishing. Lucky for me, I’m surrounded by folks who are both more experienced parents and more accomplished anglers than I am. Almost to a person, their advice includes something along the lines of “Swallow your pride and do whatever it takes for the kiddo to catch fish. Worms… treble hooks… dynamite… whatever it takes.” I’m not quite ready to employ high explosives, but organic, free range, hand-harvested annelids fit comfortably between my ethical bookends.
“That one’s just a little baby one so I put him in the grass to find a home. Oh no he pooped on me!”
“That’s ok Bud. It won’t hurt you.”
“Yeah… I know… Worm poop is always real gentle.”
What I didn’t count on when deploying this age old trick was all the bonus activity. Much like firewood heats you 10 times (felling, limbing, hauling, loading, unloading, bucking, splitting, stacking, carrying and burning) Worms, it turns out, come in handy long before they go on the hook. Sure, catching fish is fun, but sometimes it requires a little patience. Worm hunting, by contrast, is all non-stop action and immediate gratification. We can’t go fishing every afternoon. I can however send him into the yard with a garden spade and coffee can, rain or shine. With hopper season still some weeks away, this new found quarry is proving priceless.
“This one looks kinda lively, but not for real Dada cause it’s just a part worm. I think you got him with the shovel.”
“Yeah, that happens sometimes huh?”
“He’s not um… not looking too healthy so we’ll just leave it be. K Dada? Oooo a ant, a big red ant, look it Dada!”
The subsurface safari that is our backyard helps keep the squirt in the sun, off the couch and out of our hair. Our obliging little invertebrate neighbors are engaging his curiosity, grounding him in his natural surroundings, making him more observant and teaching him about the ways of the world. And wouldn’t you know it… there’re even helpful for catching the occasional fish.