“Give a man a fish and feed him for day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime” is how the saying goes. Not strictly true of course, but there is a beautiful idea in there and it is very catchy. I have started to teach my two and a half year old son to fish over the last few months and we may well be hungry for quite some time to come on these efforts. But I have been stunned by just how much he wants to do it. I was accused of some sexism when declaring a preference for a boy in part because he would be more likely to want to fish and hunt with me. People said girls might just as easily do that. I’m sure for some girls that may be true, but as a general idea, what I am seeing in my son is just so much a guy thing.
In February in New Zealand we began by him being around on the lake and river edge while I fished (with a stunning lack of success) for trout. He would either be in a backpack carrier looking over my shoulder; or standing by the water, usually with any stick he could find and jumping in genuine delight with the imaginary fish he was catching with that ‘rod’. We then took to casting a lure with the hooks removed across the lawn, learning to reel it in and then how to lift the bail to let line out. Endlessly the fake fish would be caught, in the garden, the house or even the car, to the exclamation of “I catch a fish!”. Equally endlessly the line would also end up in seeming impossible tangles.
Returning home to Sydney, I bought him a cheap kid’s rod and then for days he would not want to leave the house without it. At any time he might realise it was out of sight and immediately implore “where’s my fishing rod?!”. Off the verandah, a 5 metre drop made for great sport especially for the new target species of a toy shark. Down at the beach it became obvious that even fake fish are more fun to catch in the water and hauled excitedly across the sand.
And so from here the obvious progression was to get after real fish. On outing 1 to the wharf at Clifton Gardens, he sees a fish landed for the first time; a tiny trevally that we watch in a bucket for a while before returning to the water. On outing 2 to Parsley Bay, he gets to reel in an undersize (but still notable for a 2 year old) snapper, again returned safely to the water. Outing 3 at Darling Point comes up empty handed, although on outing 4 we at least see the catches of others at the Balmoral wharf; and I get to see a fisherman in the making.
“I’m a good fisherboy” my son is likely to declare to you, and to be fair for a 2 year old he has a point. This has not yet fed him a morsel. I have just started to properly limit myself to 4 days a week at work, the Squeeze doing the same and each of us having a parenting day and just 3 days of paid daycare. For me this has become a fishing and community garden vegie plot day as often as not, and will remain so. At some stage a line will be cast rather just reeled in; then perhaps a hook baited; eventually a hook even tied on. And somewhere along the way there will finally be the fish that feeds us. As lovely as any meal may be, the food won’t last a lifetime, but there is something for a father and son that I dearly hope will.