Take a kid fishing; you’ll both love it
Payton Chism, an 11-year-old from San Antonio, holds up one of the many catfish he caught while fishing at Calaveras Lake June 11. It was his first-ever fishing trip.
While I don’t get to do it nearly as often as I’d like, it’s always a blast to hit the water at first light for a day of fishing on the lake. I’ll sadly admit that I hadn’t “wet a hook” in some time, but am happy to say I went on an incredible trip this past weekend. Why was this trip so special, you might ask? The answer is simple. I was able to share in the moment as a great kid I know caught his first-ever fish -- on his first-ever fishing trip.
It all came about after reliving the wonder years during a recent phone call with my buddy Duane. We were talking about some of the fishing trips we had taken several years back, and he confessed to having never taken his son fishing. Payton was now 11 years old, and I knew I had to get involved. Like most outdoorsmen I’ve had the great pleasure to know, I believe strongly in sharing my love of nature and wildlife with our future generations. Many of my fondest memories are of being in the outdoors, and especially those “first-time” moments I get to experience with my kids.
After a little planning, a few phone calls, and even a text message or two, the trip was set. It was decided that Payton and Duane would accompany my son, Tristan, and me on a catfish charter on Calaveras Lake. Eric Boenker of Reel Time Adventures was our guide for the day, and while I can’t say enough good things about him, that is a story for another day.
I absolutely hate getting up early, but for some reason, if a fishing rod or deer rifle is involved, it’s always so much easier. Duane and Payton live on the north side of San Antonio, though, so their alarms went off even earlier than my own.
My son and I met up with Duane and Payton around 5:30 a.m., and the four of us connected with Eric just before 6 a.m. at Calaveras Lake. The kids were excited, and as the caffeine began to work through my system, I was getting excited too.
While Eric took care of launching the boat, the rest of us stood around and took the opportunity to laugh quietly at the expense of a guy that walked a little too far down the boat ramp -- and quickly discovered the slippery nature of the slope.
“Boy, he went all in on that one, didn’t he?” Duane said with a chuckle, though I think we all took a step back from the water ourselves.
After strapping on the life jackets, we all loaded into the boat and made our way out. I’m not sure who was more excited, though, Payton or the rest of us. As we left the dock and got outside the wake zone, the excitement really hit us all, as the Johnson outboard roared to life and we began scooting across the lake. We had moved beyond the anticipation at that point, and were now living in the moment.
After a short boat ride, Eric found the spot he wanted us in, and brought the vessel to a standstill. It turns out that Eric really knows what he is doing, and within minutes of dropping anchor, the action began.
It had been the goal of everyone on the boat to see Payton catch his first fish. Before we left the dock, I told him I wanted to see him catch a lot of big fish, but suggested he not catch more than me. Apparently, he only listened to half of what I had to say.
Within minutes of tossing our lines in the water, the first fish had taken the bait. And wouldn’t you know it -- it was Payton who reeled the first fish into the boat. It was a good-looking channel cat, and after several photos to commemorate the moment, his fish found a new home in the bottom of the cooler.
“When I cast my first time after three days of practice in my driveway, I knew I was going to have a blast,” Payton later said as he retold the story. “I watched my line and bobber closely to be sure if a fish came I would be ready. My bobber suddenly went under, and a shot of adrenaline went through me as I yanked my line with all my might.
“The fish put up a big fight,” he added, “but after yanking, tugging, and reeling, I got the fish right where I wanted him -- in our boat.”
It soon became clear to us all that Payton was a quick study. His first fish was followed by a second and a third, and before long, the youngster had landed more than 10 fish. In his excitement, he clearly had missed the part about not catching more fish than me.
Eventually, Duane managed to worm his way into Payton’s little honey hole, while Tristan and I were left to wonder what sort of bad mojo was lingering at the back of the boat where we were. Fortunately, though, Eric made a few adjustments to the position of the boat, and we started to bring them in too.
After less than five hours on the water, everyone was content. Payton had not only caught his first fish ever, but went on to add another 15 or 20 to the count. In total, we landed 52 fish -- a day anyone would deem successful.
The fishing had been reported as “slow,” but it didn’t feel that way to us. Eric came through for Payton and us all, providing a true “Reel Time Adventure.”
“I was happy to provide an adventure for a young angler’s first trip out,” Eric later said. “Creating memories and teaching these skills is what I enjoy doing. These kids are the future of our sport.”
Payton said he had a great time, and definitely wants to go fishing again. It seems we may have started something with him, and that realization put a smile on everyone’s face. Duane was also thrilled with the trip. In addition to sharing in his son’s first-ever catch, he was able to experience a great time for himself. He was also pretty excited about the two gallon-sized bags of catfish fillets he took home, though there has been no word on when the fish fry will occur.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect with it being Payton’s first time trying fishing, but it exceeded any expectations I may have had,” Duane said. “Payton picked it up easy enough.
“He got that from his old man,” Duane added with a chuckle, “and he is a master hook setter.”
As for Tristan and me, we had a blast catching fish too. He is still a little bitter over one fish he claims I “stole” from him, though. Apparently, throwing my line in less than a foot from where he was and then promptly catching a fish was unacceptable. I’m pretty sure he’ll get payback on me, though; if not on the lake, then perhaps in the deer blind.
If you haven’t been out fishing in a while, I encourage you to grab your gear and find some water this summer. And if you have a child or friend who hasn’t been fishing yet, do yourselves all a favor -- take them along.