“Hey, can you show me again how to put this bait on?” my brother, Scott, asked as we stood under a leaden sky pelted by a cool morning rain waiting for the official opening of trout season.
Turning my back, I rolled my eyes, slumped my shoulders and let out a barely audible groan. “So this is how it’s going to be all day,” I thought as I resigned myself to doing less fishing and more helping and guiding.
Out loud I said, “Sure” as I walked over to show him the finer points of running a baiting needle through a minnow to slide it up on the leader line and onto the hook.
I know, I know. That sounds awful. My brother finally joined us for Opening Day (he’s not much into fishing but I think a guided trip for smallmouth with my dad last fall may have gotten him hooked) and here I am only thinking about myself. Look, there are two days out of the year that have me acting like a kid at Christmas; opening of trout and, well, Christmas.
Between the thought of teaching my brother how to fish for trout, the weather and being hemmed in by more fishermen on one side of us and a herd of cattle on the other the prospects of having an awesome day seemed limited.
After an hour of fishing and not getting a bite, let alone catching anything, one of our friends who was fishing a few holes down came to check on us.
“Hey Herman!” he called to my brother, “Did you catch anything yet?”
“No.” my brother snorted irritably.
“Really? I’ve caught six! I bet there’s some right there in front of you. I’d laugh if I threw in right here and caught one.” And he proceeded to do just that. One cast, one catch. Right from the hole my brother had been fishing all morning. Some taunting and a lot of maniacal laughter ensued.
That was pretty much when I decided, “Screw this. I’m gonna do whatever I can to help him catch at least one today.” Yeah, I was a little irritated watching someone show my brother up. We are blood, after all.
For the next four hours we fished that stream in The Meadow with varying degrees of success. For some of us the bite was great, others it was average and for my brother, it just plain sucked. Jay and his son had pulled in six or seven each and before you ask, yes they released them. Tony and I had three. Scott, meanwhile, was still looking for that first one.
Along the way I showed him what types of water to look for, how to let his bait flow with the current to get in the strike zone at the bottom of a pool, and how to envision what the bottom of the stream looked like as his bait bounced along it.
Finally, it was getting on towards time for us to wrap up and leave. Normally, I would have stayed through the afternoon but I wanted to get home to my wife and infant daughter. Still, Scott had caught nothing, unless you count sticks, leaves, or rocks.
As we fished the same section of stream, him on one side of the bank, me on the other, I flipped my line to a current seam on his side and let my bait drift. I felt a tap and reeled down on a nice size trout. It rolled and I could see it flash under the water as I started to pull it across the current. And then it was gone.
Immediately, I yelled across to my brother, “Cast downstream on your side about 20 feet and reel the bait up towards you! There’s one in there, he just had my line!”
He did as instructed and about half way through his retrieve he let out a whoop as his rod bent under the weight of a fish. The drag on the reel was pretty loose and he wasn’t making up any ground. Worried he would break the fish off I yelled to him, “Walk toward him as you take up line!”
After what seemed an eternity, Scott got to a break in the shoreline cover and flipped the trout onto the bank.
Thrusting my arms over my head I started screaming in sheer joy and excitement as he laughed and yelled. When he got back on the same side of the stream as me, he posed for some pictures with his catch. As I snapped away it dawned on me those five minutes were the most fun I had all day; it’s not about how many fish are in the creel it’s about how much fun we’re having with friends and family.
No longer was it, “So this is how it’s going to be.” It was now, “So this is how it should be.”
* Jeff Herman is the managing editor at WMAR | ABC2. His main passion while not at work is fishing. This column is part of a series of columns he writes for our outdoors page. You can read more of his columns here.