So, I’ve put on few. Happens to the best of us. My wife wanted to go walking near the house and volun-told me to go with her. The local college near the house has a lake behind it with a two mile walking path, so we headed that way.  After leaving the car we passed a 10 year old boy fishing alongside the lake. I asked how the fishing was and he responded, “Not great. I don’t have any bait.” I told him he should go dig around by a fence line they had just ripped up because he might find some worms there.

We continued our walk, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that little kid who wanted to fish so badly that he just kept tossing a bare hook into the water hoping that something down there might grab it. That’s passion.

We finished our walk and as we approached the car, I noticed a man fishing on the bank. I asked him if he had an extra lure or two or maybe some rubber worms he could spare. I told him about the kid farther down the bank and he gladly shared what he had. I walked back down to the boy and gave him the lures, showed him a good knot, and helped him get rigged up. His reel, however, was beyond repair, so I showed him a way to fling his lure out into the lake. I mentioned to his Mom that he might have better luck if he went out and cast from the dock, but she said he wasn’t allowed since he couldn’t  swim. He was having a tough time casting, but was too excited about his donated gear to slow down. Before leaving, I gave my number to his mother and told her to call me next week. I mentioned that I might be able to come up with a better rod for him.

As luck would have it, I ran into a friend in town later that day. He was talking with someone and said,”This is someone you need to meet!” He explained that this person had just gotten into fly fishing and was curious about where to go fishing. A recovering bait chunker, this new friend mentioned that he was going to get rid of most of his old gear. I told him about the boy and asked if he might donate a rod or two to him. He was happy to oblige, so I waited for the boy’s mom to call. Later the next week she called. I told her that I had been able to come up with a couple of rods and would she like to meet in the next day or two. We made a plan to meet the next afternoon, so I went to Walmart to round up some more gear . I bought him a tackle box, some worms, hooks, spinners and enough basic gear to keep him busy on the water for a long time.

Excitedly, I drove to the Home Depot parking lot to meet them. Little did I know, his mom had not mentioned any of this plan to her son just in case it didn’t work out. The look on his face was priceless! I told them how my new friend had donated the rods and reminded him of the knot I’d shown him before. He was so surprised and excited he nearly burst into tears and I may or may not have been choking back a few tears myself. I told him and his mom that he could have all the gear, but there was a catch. He needed to get swimming lessons. I said that, as a lifelong fisherman, there have been many times I’ve ended up in the water by accident and that he really needed to know how to swim. They both agreed and after a big thank you hug we parted ways.

June is Take A Kid Fishing month, so I thought I’d share this story in the hopes that you might keep an eye out for that kid that’s just dying to wet a hook. Most of us probably have more gear than we need and could donate some to that boy or girl who’s standing on the outside of the sport looking in. You might just inspire the next Flip Pallot or Lefty Kreh, but I guarantee your heart will benefit from it. Just as it’s imperative that we are good stewards of the natural resources we love so much, it’s equally important that we help shepherd the next generation to the sport. We need to teach them about conservation in the process so that they might develop the same lifelong passion most of us enjoy.

So there’s your challenge. The next time you’re at the lake or on the river, keep an eye out for that young person on the bank with that look of yearning in their eyes. See if you can help get them started. You’ll be glad you did. Tight lines everyone!

Scott Thompson, Cohutta Field Staff