There are three rookie baseball players on the Toronto Blue Jays, each with a father made famous by success in the same sport.
I watched the fathers play and remember them well. Two of them are in the baseball Hall of Fame. Each of the young players is having a great season as they seem to hit home runs with a skill well beyond their young age.
During the game, when a baseball is launched over the wall by one of these rookies, the television camera often focuses on the proud faces of their dads who are watching the game from some VIP room.
Even in major league baseball, a father can’t expect his child to have the same interests and passions — much less the same skill level. There is no guarantee for any parent and this diversity in personalities and capabilities is probably healthy.
Disregarding all of this reason and from the moment he was born, I hoped my son would become a fisherman. For his first birthday I bought him a plastic fishing pole which utilized a magnetic lure to catch plastic fish. He loved it and played with it more than any other toy. I was very happy but cautious amid frequent warnings from his mother about his eventual angling development.
The years passed and I took him fishing a lot. Every Christmas, birthday and Easter basket had fishing lures, tackle bags and anything else related to the sport. He continued to grow and his love for fishing followed right along. My plan seemed to be working.
Taking a child fishing is fun, exciting and incredibly challenging. There are many moving parts and any one of them may go wrong during the procedure. The child wants to do everything for his or herself while the parent must encourage this independence with limitations and restraint. An inexperienced angler assumes that casting must be done with great speed and tremendous strength, while the opposite is true. Slow, calculated casts are the most effective but well outside a child’s understanding.
My son finally mastered his casting by age 6 and learned that grace and momentum were more effective than jumping and flailing. With his casting mastered, he quickly learned rudimentary knot-tying, lure selection and fish removal. By the time he was 10, he was no longer a project, but had become a fishing partner.
From the age of 12 to 14, my son and I had many wonderful experiences on the water. He practiced and perfected his own method of angling. I watched him evolve and felt tremendous pride that he had become what I hoped he would. His love for fishing was personal, solidified by books, magazines and videos that he investigated on his own time.
All of this changed when he decided to become a fly fisherman. He was great with a spinning rod and wanted to expand his repertoire. I knew that I could teach him and thought it would be as easy and successful as all of our other adventures. I could not have been more wrong.
All of a sudden, we were back to square one. He was like a child again and I spent less time fishing for myself, instead untangling line, removing hooks from trees, and offering calm reassurance. Where once his frustrations could take the form of tears and childish protest, they now included throwing objects and occasional profanity. I was not prepared for this but stood my ground and, over time, taught the boy to fly fish.
Now, almost 18, my son is a great fly fisherman and often catches more fish than I do. Like the Hall of Fame dads watching their prodigy hit home runs, I am lucky to watch mine land a fish and wink at me. It looks like things have worked out the way I had always hoped.