There are few things more precious in this world than the smile of a child. It is heart warming and makes everyone around them smile too. This past week has brought many smiles from kids of all ages.
We just finished up our second annual YMCA fishing camp. We had sixty campers this week from ages K-8. As you can well imagine, getting sixty youngsters together with fishing poles, lines, and hooks, can be quite an adventure. Not to mention, the local bait shop was starting to wonder about me when I came in everyday to buy copious amounts of worms. They had no problem swiping my card though.
Like last year, we had the kids meet at four different locations across four different days. Local associations and landowners were generous to let us use their properties. The children loved it and we were so grateful. Many of the lakes were filled with crystal clear water that let the kids see the fish they were after. It’s really special to see them point and get excited when they see a fish, then cast to it and finally catch it.
Another highlight for me was to see the little ones pile into boats on the last day of the camp. For many of them, this was a first. There is something magical about stepping from the dock onto a watercraft. When they feel the boat jostle just a bit as they step on that infectious grin once again makes an appearance. That’s right, we are no longer attached to land.
The boat allows them to go to places they couldn’t from land and fish the places that always look so good when you are locked in place along the shoreline. I’m pretty sure that some of the campers would have been just as happy to ride around the lake and relax instead of stopping to fish. I can’t blame them. Boating is relaxing.
The first day we caught a few fish, but as the week progressed we caught a lot of them. There were scores of bluegills caught, along with some quality largemouth and several feisty catfish. The nice thing about fishing with kids though is the size of the fish rarely matters. The scaly creature at the end of the line can be two inches long or twenty, the toothy grin they each fetch is amazing.
Fishing also knows no gender. Boys and girls both caught fish equally well. In fact, some of the girls were the most eager to dig worms out of the bait container and take the fish off of the hook. Fishing is a sport where anyone, any age, of any race, can have fun together.
This year we were so fortunate as to have a lot of parents and grandparents stay and fish with their children. As I patrolled the shoreline checking to see if anyone needed anything, it was so satisfying to see moms and dads sitting with their kids all having a good time. I witnessed grandfathers passing on their knowledge and having immense amounts of patience with their little protégées.
It was also rewarding to help a child that was frustrated with not catching anything to break through and get rid of the dreaded zero. When that first bite materializes into a tail-dancing catch the adrenaline pumps through them so fast the frowns are vaporized immediately. Then the race is on. Can they catch another one? How quickly? Will it be bigger than their brothers?
One child would scream down the shore to a friend, “I got another one.” The friend would then focus more intently on their bobber. The nature of fishing is to not be outdone by your buddies. As I observed this banter going back-and-forth the little angler that caught only one came back with exactly what I though they would say, “Oh yeah, mine was bigger though!” Oh yes, what is the competition going to be? Numbers or size? That is the question.
We were so fortunate to have had good weather this year, especially amongst the unending thunderstorms that seem to be pounding our area. We were blessed to have plenty of help from people all over the community and like I mentioned before, none of this would be possible if it wasn’t for the generous land owners and associations that allowed these kids to spend four days chasing fish and being outdoors. Thank you.