Today is Monday, August 21, 2017

Youth revisited

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What's the worst distraction to a hard-nosed adult fisherman? It's a little boy, a tagalong son who, when he's not hung up on a log with his fishing line, wants to catch a turtle.

I went by my daughter's house to see her koi pond, and she mentioned that she would like to have a turtle to put in with her flashy gold-and-black fish. No problem, I thought, I'd just get on my kayak, take a butterfly net and catch her one. Back when I fished with my dad, it seemed I'd always be able to scoop one up barehanded. Of course, I didn't take into account that we were probably on the water all day and, somewhere in that extended time, the opportunity would present itself for me to nag my father into taking a short side trip to an occupied log so that he could snag a little one. Later when I was old enough to score my own rental flat-bottomed boat, I would catch one early in the day and then get down to the serious task of fishing. Actually, I didn't want to catch too many fish because daddy insisted that I had to scale and gut (clean) each one I caught.

We had a small goldfish bowl and would put the little turtles with the red stripes on their necks into it and watch and catch houseflies for them to eat.

So this day I started down the lake with my bright-blue kayak, fully confident that in a few minutes I'd have all the turtles I wanted to keep. Sure enough, I hadn't gone more than 100 yards till I saw a good-sized one duck under. But my butterfly net was too small and fragile to be able to pry the reptile from his shelter under the log, and I didn't seem to have the time to wait for him to resurface for air, which might take several minutes. On to the next opportunity I paddled - with similar nonproductive results.

After two hours of kayaking and scooping, I didn't have a single turtle so I came in muddy and scratched up from digging through the streamside underbrush. Did I mention that getting in and out of the kayak isn't the easiest thing to do, especially as fast as is necessary to ambush a turtle? Or that getting on your hands and knees in the shallow water doesn't guarantee success?

Not to be defeated, the next day I tried it again. This time I put on camouflage clothes and used my stealthy, gray-colored craft. And this time I was able to do what my youth of 65 years ago did. I grabbed a five-inch-diameter red-eared turtle off of the muddy bottom on my second attempt.

I just hope that my daughter, who will be the recipient of all my childhood critter-chasing success, will remember to catch houseflies to feed her new pet.

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