Looking through old photos the other day, I stumbled across one that brought a huge smile to my face. It shows a way-too-skinny 10-year-old in a way-too-baggy T-shirt, proudly hoisting the biggest bass of his life.
It was a happy day for that kid — he still remembers it well. It was summer at Lake Redman in eastern Pennsylvania. And right there in front of the dock, he spotted a big largemouth bass, just waiting to be caught.
Time after time, he cast a Rebel Crayfish crankbait into the bass’ lair. Time after time, it was ignored. When the kid’s little brother got bored and started playing in the water, he worried the bass would flee. But there the fish sat, stubbornly ignoring that Rebel Crayfish.
Until, one time, it didn’t. The big bass flared its gills, turned its head and snapped at the lure, catching the rear hook in its upper lip. Pandemonium broke loose on the dock, as crossed lines and inexperience threatened to spoil the prized catch.
But the fishing gods smiled that day, and the child’s dad managed to scoop the bass into the net just before the hook came dislodged. There were hugs, high-fives and lots of photos — and the kid couldn’t wait to get that film developed!
That kid, of course, was me. And back then, his life was simple. He looked forward to every fishing trip like it was Christmas morning. Between outings, he reorganized his tackle box, watched fishing shows, read fishing magazines and dreamed of the day when he’d have his own boat and, just maybe, his own TV show.
Fast-forward more than two decades, and many of those dreams came true. It’s nothing fancy, but there’s a trusty fishing boat sitting in his garage. He still enjoys organizing his tackle, and he can actually buy a few of the snazzy lures in those magazines. There’s no TV show, but he does get to share his love of fishing with others. And every trip — whether it’s a proper weekend getaway or a quick after-work jaunt — still feels like Christmas.
There are tradeoffs, too. These days, the kid isn’t quite as skinny (and his clothes do fit better). And while fishing is still a big part of his life, he has bills to pay and a family to take care of — even an adorable daughter of his own! Such responsibilities never crossed the mind of 10-year-old Jord.
But the kid in that photo lives on in spirit. When he caught that fish, everything felt right in his world. As he gets older, life comes at him fast, and he doesn’t always have an answer for the curveballs it throws. But Christmas mornings still come, and he gets to enjoy the best kinds of presents.
The serenity of red-winged blackbirds chirping in the willows.
The thrilling thrash of a big fish on the end of the line.
The feeling that, at least for a moment, everything is right in the world again.
And a snapshot to remember it by — no film required.