STRAY CASTS: Learning patience is becoming tougher for today’s kids

The Stray Caster and family spent a wonderful long week­end at the Conestogo dam and campgrounds – although he will admit that sleeping in a tent tends to make him realize that the years are unkind to every­one – especially him.

The Stray Caster family, Mrs. Stray Caster (aka Anna), Hellene, and Matthew-Adam were joined by one of the Stray Caster’s many brothers, Mark, his wife, Tammy, and their kids, Alicia and Robert. It made for a full campsite, but the folks at the gate anticipated well, and found us a roomy place for two tents and three vehicles, since Anna and Tammy drove up Fri­day morning, while Mark and the Stray Caster followed after working all day Friday.

Naturally, after a Friday of kick­ing around a soccer ball and collecting wood, on Sat­ur­day the kids be­gan to yammer before break­fast was suitably settled about going fish­ing. Mark had brought along his rod and a bunch of tackle. The Stray Caster, know­ing that Alicia and Robert have no rods and reels yet, found a couple of extras for them.

With the kids impatiently standing by and watching his every move, the Stray Caster began rigging rods. Hellene and Matt, of course, have their own gear and were proudly picking through the tackle boxes they received for their birthdays this summer. Matt, 8 in August, held up a Rapala and said, “If you were a fish, would you bite this one?’

Good question, actually. We suggested that if we were a pike, we might, and Matt gig­gled. Hellene, meanwhile, was avidly watching as the Stray Caster demonstrated the Rapala knot. She already knows the Palomar knot, and wants to add to her repertoire. She has even deigned to tie Matt’s jigs from time to time – if he hasn’t been too annoying.

The Stray Caster has to admit that he is a big fan of the Rapala knot. He has never seen it in any books, but the tying instructions often come with the lure itself, although not all packages have them. The first time he tied it, the Stray Caster wondered if he had done it wrong. Every other knot he knows is snugged to an eye or an O-ring, or the metal on the lure. The Rapala knot can snug anywhere from a half inch to several inches up from the ring and the lure. It looks weird.

But, the Stray Caster can also say that he has never had one snap off. The knot allows the lure to move better than any other knot, and it is very strong.

It took some time to rig all the rods, and we then headed for the river, just below the dam. Three of the kids were toss­ing Rapalas, and Alicia was using a spoon tied on by her Dad.

The Stray Caster parked him­self at a picnic table strate­gically situated just below the dam in order to watch all the activity. There were several Mennonites busy fishing, using everything from bobbers to spoons, and another family of Dad and two very young ang­lers who were using bob­bers and minnows. The youngest found more fascina­tion in the minnow bucket than in holding a rod.

The river was muddy from the rain the night before, and nobody was catching anything. It was then that the Stray Caster noted that there are some big differences in kids.

At home, Hellene and Matt are severely restricted in wat­ching television and playing computer games. We have no TV hooked up, and their com­puter time has been zero since Anna’s computer went to the shop. They do not touch the Stray Caster’s computer.

Alicia, unlike her mom and dad, is an avid reader who lit­erally wears out library cards. Her brother, Robert, is a Play­station fanatic. After less then 20 minutes, Robert came over to the picnic table, set his rod down, and declared, “I’m quitting. There’s no fish here.”

We started to discuss that possibility, but it is difficult to convince a 9-year-old that only skill and patience will help him catch fish, when at least a doz­en anglers around him, plus he himself, are catching abso­lut­e­ly zero. Hey, maybe the fish were all gone.

More likely, though, the in­stant gratification, wild graph­ics, and computer game over­load have destroyed his patience. He was bored within minutes. After all, tossing a Rapala and not getting any fish is not as much fun as blowing something up on a computer. At least, that’s the way it is in his mind.

The Stray Caster carefully explained the ideals of angling and patience, but Robert was having none of it. The fishing action by all the kids gradually stopped, and everyone went back to the camp – except the Stray Caster, who sat and watched as several of the Mennonites began bringing in cat fish. Sadly, Robert was not there to see for himself that there are, indeed, fish in the river.

Next time, the Stray Caster will have to put him on a fish that is so big it nearly pulls him in. That kind of excitement in real life tops computers games easily. The Stray Caster has seen that before.