Our Outdoors: Paying Attention

Nick Simonson

By Nick Simonson

Once in a great while on the water, or in the tree stand, or even just out for an early morning run, I catch a glimpse of the rising sun before it disappears under the clouds for the day as a system begins to move through.  I often find myself thinking with that moment I may be one of just a handful of people who saw the sun before the clouds set in for that entire day, and I can’t help but think of that brief window as being something special.  It feels more so for its rarity, as it’s only happened a handful of times; the movement of the clouds, the dawning of the day, and my presence outdoors to see it happen all having to align to experience that brief moment that few others will witness.

There’s a bigger life metaphor in there, about how short our time is, or how unique moments are all around us if we make ourselves available to witness them. But as the father of a six-year-old, the one at hand relates to his inherited lightning-snap short attention span, made shorter by simply being young.  With a new school recently built near our house, and his difficult transition to it, having lost his best friend who remained at his old school, he was more amped with excitement to see his buddy this weekend than the energy generated by Halloween, Independence Day and Christmas combined.  The planned fishing trip with his friend was all he could talk about for the last two weeks. 

The three of us piled in the truck and headed west to a small trout lake, where I was certain the shorter days of the season – though not necessarily cooler thus far – had brought the stockers up from their summer slumber in the depths. Heading out from the launch in my puddle jumper, rods rigged with tiny spoons and fluorocarbon leaders, cooler filled with enough juice boxes and granola bars to last a weekend, the trolling motor whirred us through the bends and turns of the old creek which made up the upper portion of the reservoir.  The channel was evident in the lower water of late summer, and it took a few minutes before we reached the open stretch of the flow as we navigated the matted green S-curves.

Once in the open basin, I cast out the first spoon and then the next, handing the spinning rods over to the young anglers sitting side by side in the folding camp chairs near the bow. It wasn’t a couple of minutes before my son’s rod jumped with the strike of a fish and he reeled in his first brown trout.  Resetting the lines, I fired them off the back of the boat again and rounded a weedy point. As we completed the turn, his buddy’s rod thumped and he cranked down on the reel, bringing in another brown trout in as many minutes.  The next reset produced a couple hard hits and a connection with chunky rainbow trout, and just 10 minutes in I was certain the planned three-hour afternoon trip could easily hit 30 fish at the rate we were going.

We rounded the deep end of the small lake along the rock dam, and as we did, both rods popped and one connected with yet another trout as my son’s buddy pulled in his third fish and his first rainbow trout ever. After unhooking it and letting it slide back into the water, I was certain the newly forged fishing buddies were hooked for the day as the sun broke free of the remaining clouds and the quick success suggested a fast afternoon of fishing. 

Instead, I was met with the stereo request of: “can we be done now!?” 

My jaw dropped, I’m sure my eyes got as wide as dinner plates, and I backpedaled instantly into bargaining mode with promises of even an even better second pass, fast-biting fish, and the chance at some even bigger ones.  I attempted to distract them and suggested more juice boxes and granola bars as my negotiation points withered into near begging and pleading to stick around for just five more minutes.  They would have none of it, and I conceded that my well-developed oratory skills are no match for the draw of dressing up as Superman and Batman and patrolling the villain-loaded stretch of a basement hallway, creating the twists and turns of marble races, and two six-year-olds catching up after being apart for three weeks.  So, twenty-seven minutes and five trout into the afternoon, we were headed back to the launch, and the proverbial sun disappeared on our trip as the real one warmed what remained of the day.

Having written about it more than once, when it comes to taking youngsters fishing, all outings are subject to a shortened attention span.  When that turns to the loose screws holding down the old plywood in the boat, how fast they can suck the liquid and the air out of a juice box, and the idea of a hard-hitting trout takes a backseat to what’s next on their afternoon agenda, that’s the end.  But like the few minutes of sun in the morning that others might not get to see on those rare days, I was glad at least to have witnessed it for the short time spent…in our outdoors.

Nick Simonson is the lead writer and editor of Dakota Edge Outdoors.

Featured Photo: Fast Fishing. Cannon Schmitt of Bismarck, N.D., holds up his first brown trout while the author’s son, Jackson, looks on during a short fishing trip. Simonson Photo.

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