The whir of a fishing line cast out along the shore with the end of said line gently breaking the stillness of the water with a subtle splash.
The stuff deep breaths are made of.
For those seeking such sweet relief from the burdens of life and high blood pressure, few activities regularly deliver in such a way. I, myself, have only been fishing a handful of times, but it hardly takes a lifetime to see the appeal.
This summer, my wife and I introduced our two kids (Cooper, 7 and Milo, 5) to the hobby. After a couple times out, there is one undeniable fact about fishing: there is fishing and then there is fishing with kids.
These are two incredibly different experiences (with my kids, at least). If you are unsure what situation you may find yourself in, here are some telltale signs you are surely fishing with a couple of youthful goofballs.
Sign #1: You are spending more time with your kids’ line than your kids
First a disclaimer: fishing with kids is not a bad thing. It can be a great thing. It’s just different. In so many ways, fishing is the antithesis of “kid." To do it well, you need to be patient, willing to sit still for large amounts of time with no guarantee of a payoff.
Regardless, if your kids are anything like mine, you’ll shortly find yourself sitting at a picnic table with several fishing poles - each tangled like a box of Christmas lights - lined up for dad’s special “unraveling touch.” In these moments, sure, you’ll question why you decided to get up early on your Saturday morning away from work, but hey, at least you’ll have children covered in dirt and squashed worm parts.
The great tangle is even more impressive considering it happens about every 90 seconds - like some sort of frustrating magic trick.
And that comes after pulling the aquatic plant life that they managed to hook when physically dragging their fishing pole ashore. Silver lining: if done in certain locations, I suppose it can either remove invasive plant species or provide you with the starter seaweed for your sushi rolls that night (provided you eventually cast it far enough out to reach the fish).
Sign #2: Your kids are setting a world record in casting
My dear, amazing children have many wonderful qualities to brag about. Sitting still is not one of them. That means the one physical activity involved with fishing is the only activity they engage in for hours.
In retrospect, it seems as if their lines spend less time in the water and more over their shoulders - ready to be launched like a major league pitcher about to deliver a 100-mile-per-hour fastball.
Casting is, by far, my kids favorite part of fishing. As a parent, you start off hovering around them with every intention of getting hooked by an errant wave of their arms. But you stand in there, position them and run like heck five feet away before they can.
They cast so much, a curious bystander might wonder if we are fishing are simply trying to knock all the fish near the surface of the water unconscious with the constant line-flinging.
Sign #3: Your fishing haul is always short of a kid’s expectations
Five minutes into our first fishing expedition, both of the kids looked over at me wondering why we did not have a bucket teeming with giant marlins.
“Maybe they’ve already eaten a bunch of worms today, guys.”
Once they finally get the lines out there - and not crossed with each other - the real run begins (I want my readers to appreciate the resolve it took to not say “reel fun” in this moment. I digress. Back to the column…). The hardest thing about teaching kids to fish is about teaching patience in the form of time. I tell my kids to cast and leave their line out there for a while.
About 30 seconds later, with no fish pulling on the line, they drag the entire thing in - taking any vegetation unfortunate enough to grow near the shore with it.
Sign #4: The most important ‘fish’ come in cheesy cracker form
A tacklebox just isn’t ever big enough for a child’s demands of fishing.
Sure, you have spent plenty of time stocking it with lures, bobbers, bait and all other doo-dads and small tools, but really, it’s about the “second tacklebox.”
More accurately, what was packed for snacks, lunch, to drink and all other manner of consumption that turns a fishing trip into more of an impromptu five-course meal that just happens to have a great view of a pond.
And if you ever leave the Goldfish crackers at you, be prepared for harsh criticism of the trip altogether. Bonus points if your kids can see the irony in spending much of their time complaining about the lack of fish.
Sign #5: You’ll want to return to the water faster
My oldest son caught a small fish about 10 minutes into our first time out. About a moment prior to calling it a night, my youngest was out-of-his-mind ecstatic when he pulled in one as well.
Both were moments of pure joy you can’t pay for. And to have both kids go home with a fish story to tell reiterated my belief in a merciful God.
Despite all the hiccups and quirks to fishing this way, they have found pockets of true enjoyment in progressing more and more in their fishing skills.
Sure, you will spend less time actually fishing than you planned, but seeing them cast that first line correctly, watching the unbridled joy on their faces as they reel in their first fish, is worth every moment otherwise spent sleeping in on a Saturday morning.
So, zzzzzzzzt away. Tranquil fishing is overrated anyways.
Josh Farnsworth is a husband, father of goofballs Cooper and Milo, goofball himself, and award-winning writer and columnist living in Worcester. He can be reached for column ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.