There's nothing like a big fish story with cell phone pictures to back it up.
“Hey honey. I think I am going to need a little help!” hollered my wife Laura.
“I am kind of busy over here,” I replied without looking over to her. I was in the middle of helping my son Colin untangle a massive backlash on his spinner; just about had it licked too!
“George, I am serious! This thing is going to break my line!” she shouted.
Colin looked up first. “Whoa! Let it take line if it wants to and don't let it get under one of those rocks!” Good advice, I thought. He had come a long way since our day on the creek on the Fourth of July.
My eyes bulged out when I saw what was going on. My wife's rod was bent over, she reeled, the drag buzzed like crazy, and she looked excited. Colin dropped his rod on the sand – we'd finish it later. We both approached Laura, watching her fight whatever was on her hook. We were fishing with night crawlers, and everything hits a night crawler so you never know what it is until you see it. We were excited to see what it was!
“It's going for a rock! I think it just went under a rock!”
“Keep tension on it!” Colin cheered.
“It's out! It just came out from the rock!” She was super excited and confident now. Confidence was all over her face. “It's coming this way!” “Keep reeling and keep tension on the line like Colin said!” I coached. Really though, there was nothing I could do to help at this point, so I just watched, smiled and enjoyed the evening warmth!
Colin and I had established several unspoken rules of the creek over the summer: 1. Always have a charged cell phone for pictures. 2. Never hold someone else's fish for the picture. 3. Don't let someone else reel in YOUR fish. Colin and I were more nervous than Laura because all we could do was root for her.
Rooting for other people while they were catching fish was something I did a lot of that week. On Labor Day Colin and I walked about a half a mile down the creek to fish a deep hole. We spent most of the afternoon fishing because it was an active spot. A quick synopsis of that day: Colin yanked his rod and shouted, “Got one!” and I brought my baited hook in and stayed of his way. Honestly, as a dad, I enjoyed that tremendously. My son's look of joy when he catches a fish on his own is why I fish!
Colin out-fished me on Labor Day, and it was great! In fact Labor Day was the only day we broke one of our unspoken rules. It didn't happen often this summer, but Colin and I had simultaneous catches. Both of us shouted, “Got one!” at about the same time. I had no worries about getting tangled with him because right away I knew my fish was small. It came in quickly. Colin's came in a little later, and we had a dilemma: Someone had to take the picture ... HHHHHMM. Colin's fish was larger, so he held both fish and I snapped the picture. Labor Day was the only day this summer that someone held a fish for a picture he did not catch: Colin earned the honor! Later, after supper and a change of clothes, we fished a different spot and it was more of the same: Colin caught ten to thirteen inchers, and I caught the little ones!
Fast-forward five days: Saturday, September 7, 2013. At some point in the afternoon Laura said, “Let's go fishing after dinner.”
With no hesitation, although I already fished that day, I answered, “Yeah!” and smiled! Colin smiled too. We were all in agreement! I made a quick trip for night crawlers.
Laura grew up on the creek, and has spent more afternoons fishing it than I have. She does not like night crawlers or holding fish with bare hands. If I were a fish, I'd be a sucker (of some sort) because I'm always happy to bait her hook and to unhook her fish! I love fishing with her and we've fished the creek many times before we married (no joke!) and this summer!
Colin and I both cheered for Laura. We watched, hoping her line would not break on one of the rocks or sunken limbs. Laura reeled. The drag buzzed. The fish moved straight toward her feet (Hey? My fish never do that!). What was it? “It's almost in!” she exclaimed. One final buzz on the drag, and it was on the sand.
“Oh my!” I exclaimed, eyes astonished, mouth smiling. Laura and Colin both smiled too. Colin had a little worry in his eyes (Hey, he's only ten) as he looked down at the fish.
“Can you pick it up?” Laura asked.
“Yep,” I answered.
It was a big smallmouth, big and heavy! “Whoa!” I gasped, mouth wide open. I glanced toward Colin as I picked it up. I could tell he knew this was bigger than his July 4 catch. He tried to hide the “uh oh, that fish is bigger than my fish” look in eyes, but he couldn't. Though we didn't measure his July 4 fish against my rod, we both knew Laura's fish was bigger. We measured it; the tail ended up between the 20 and 22 inch marking on my rod so we called it 20+ inches. Laura beamed from ear to ear with excitement!
“You need to hold it for the picture.”
“Are you serious?” Laura replied shaking her head. Colin and I nodded yes with our eyes and heads. Laura did not know unspoken rule of the creek number 2: Hold your own fish for the picture. Laura is a fast learner so she responded well to a quick lesson on how to control a big, strong fish with her thumb.
September 7 marks a historic date around here. My wife caught the biggest smallmouth so far on our little spot of the creek. Her 20+ inch smallmouth was caught on pan fish line, and she managed it like a pro. Laura's eyes were both delighted and sorry for stealing Colin's thunder at the same time. Colin's eyes were both delighted and there's always next summer at the same time. My eyes were both delighted and boy I love fishing with these two at the same time!
There's nothing like a big fish story with cell phone pictures to back it up!
George Hyden teaches at an elementary school in Central Indiana. Fishing with his wife and son is his favorite hobby.