Dear Mom, Ole’ Henry is still out there

Claire and I went fishing last weekend. She is always asking to do something again. “Can we go fishing again, can we go to that one park again, can we go to Disney World again?” I am happy that fishing falls near the top of the list. We always have a great time, and I think catching a fish is that kind of instantaneous gratification that also comes with a great sense of accomplishment.

So far, we have never left the lake empty handed.

As with many a great adventure, you start out with the planning. You have to make sandwiches, pack some snacks, lots of root beer and anything else you might need. Then you have to stop off and get worms. Rather you go the little bait shop or Bass Pro Shop, getting worms always seems to put you somewhere that is worthy of exploring and always requires more time than you have. That is okay we always leave wanting to see more and that is probably a good thing.

We arrive at the lake and pack up our chairs, cooler, tackle box, fishing rods, and picnic basket then head off to our super, duper, super secret fishing spot. No one knows about it except us. Well, and all the boats that go by, the ranger that stops by to say hello and whoever leaves all the beer bottles and old worm cans laying around. But other than that, it is super, duper, super secret.

We set up our chairs and I cast a rod into the water and she sets about watching her bobber. In no time I had all the rods in the water and we were doing the important fishing stuff. Eating snacks, trying out those new lemon drops we picked up, poking things with sticks, drinking root beer, singing songs and telling stories. We had a lot of nibbles. Not the good kind, the kind those little robbing fish do to steal your worms and make your bobber wiggle in the water a bit. We had gone through about 6 worms when Claire started to get bored and wander around.

There is a lot to look at when you are at the lake. It does not take a girl long to wander off following a butterfly, chasing a grasshopper or just looking for cool stuff along the bank. It is incumbent upon a good daddy to figure out a way to keep a girl from wandering too far.

“I wonder if we are going to catch Ole’ Henry today?” I say staring at the lake.

“Who’s Old Henry Daddy?” Claire stops poking the mud with a stick long enough to take the bait.

“Well, he is just the biggest, smartest fish to ever grow up in a lake. He is bigger than you and twice as long.”

“Bigger than me?” she asks. “Really, that is pretty big.” She gazes down at her feet and sizes herself up.

“He is a wily ole’ catfish that has probably stolen more worms that just about all the other fish put together.” I point out to the lake. “I hooked him once right out there. I was sitting right here in our super duper super secret fishing spot and suddenly I got a mighty tug on my fishing pole. Almost pulled me right into the water.”

“Almost pulled you in? He must have been pretty big.” She looks a little astonished at the thought “What did you do? Did you go in the lake.” Then she giggles a bit at the thought of her Daddy falling in the lake.

“No, he didn’t pull me in. I caught myself just before I went in the water and I started reeling him in.” I held my pole like I had a really big fish on it. “I was reeling in and I could tell it was a really big fish. Suddenly Ole’ Henry comes up to the surface of the water and kinda rolls his head back and forth as if he was looking to see who had hooked him. My eyes probably grew as big as saucers when I saw I had Ole’ Henry on the line. Then with a quick twist, and a swish of his tail he dove back down in the lake and my line just snapped and Ole’ Henry got away.”

“Does he still have that hook in his mouth?” She asked trying to figure out what a fish does with a hook in his mouth.

“I don’t know, maybe. He didn’t have it the last time I saw him though, so maybe he pulled it out somehow.”

“You saw him again,” she asked.

“Sure I did.” I pointed out to the middle of the lake. “Once I was fishing with a friend in a boat, right out t here. I hooked a fish and didn’t realize how big it was till it started to pull the boat across the lake. He had pulled the boat half a mile or so and I think he started to be suspicious there was something tied to his dinner. He stopped pulling long enough to pop up out of the water and look around. There he was again. Rolling his head one way, then the other as if to get a look at us. Then he went back under water and just took off. Dragged the boat all the way across the lake. We were way over there.” I pointed to the far end of the lake.

“Cool,” she exclaimed. “That sounds fun for him to drag you around.”

“It would have been, except we were parked over here and had to row the boat all the way back across the lake.”

“What happened to Old Henry?” She realized I had not finished the story.

“I was reeling in the line and thought I finally had Ole’ Henry and was about to pull him into the boat. He didn’t like that idea much and he pulled real hard on the line and POP, out came the hook from his mouth. He had pulled it so hard it was bent straight.” I held my finger up in a hook and demonstrated how it went straight.

“Wow, that Old Henry is some fish!” She sat back down in her chair and picked up her pole. “You think we will catch Old Henry today Dad?”

“I don’t know, maybe that is him stealing all our worms. He is the wiliest ole catfish to ever grow up in a lake.” I could see her staring at the bobber now imagining that wily ole catfish nibbling the worms off our hook.

“What will we do if we catch Old Henry?” She was staring at the bobber watching it intently in case it stopped wiggling so much and maybe took a dive into the water.

“He could fill up the freezer for sure. We would be eating catfish for a year if we caught Ole’ Henry.” She was still staring at the bobber for a long time, pondering this possibility.

Suddenly she spoke up again. “Dad, I don’t think we should eat Old Henry.”

This was a surprise. “You don’t, why not?” She paused now and didn’t say anything for a long time.

I broke the silence and spoke up. “Do you think maybe Ole’ Henry has been around long enough that maybe we should let him go if we catch him so maybe we could catch him again someday?”

She thought about this for a few seconds then said, “Yea, that would be a good idea.”

We sat and stared at our bobbers for a while and didn’t talk. Then she spoke up again.

“Dad, you think if we caught Old Henry we should maybe get his picture before we let him go?” She didn’t look at me, just kind of commented while staring at the lake. The way ole fishermen do when they are chewing the fat on the bank.

“I suppose that would be a great idea sweetie. I am sure Ole’ Henry would appreciate it.”

We talked about a lot of things, sang a few songs, and eventually caught a two lb catfish. It wasn’t Ole’ Henry, but then again she did not mind taking him home, cleaning him up and eating him that night so it probably worked out for the better.

I guess Ole’ Henry will have to wait for another day.

Love Mike