Pondering at the Pond
With children, fishing for trout and tolerance
by Eileen Slovak
My husband, like my father, is a weekend fisherman.
Most Saturday mornings, he takes our children, five and three, and the fishing gear to the little local pond in Owings, amidst acres of farmland and subdivisions. Stocked with trout by Maryland Fisheries Service, it also holds catfish and plenty of sunfish for the kids. This tiny oval of water is home to an entire working ecosystem.
I arrive with lunch after a blessed morning of peace and quiet to shouts and cheers (more for the lunch I suspect, than for my company). Nicholas gives the full report. “Daddy had a trout this big,” he shows me with arms outstretched. “But he got away.”
Daddy is frazzled as well as fishless, but he remains patient.
After lunch, the kids spin round in circles or chase one another with sticks. Nick tends the lines, and I recline on the grassy knoll to watch the live nature show.
When Katherine’s miniature fishing rod tugs with a nibble, Nick calls her back. Together they reel in a lively sunfish. In her excitement, she lets go of the rod and bops in her happy dance, a mixture of skipping, hopping and twirling.
But Nick’s patience is waning. Three-year-old Katherine has lasted longer and with more enthusiasm than I have expected. Her strength and stubborn nature astound me, but I know she comes by it honestly.
She and I take a break from fishing to watch the Canada geese. Their goslings are as cute as you can imagine, five miniature, waddling, yellow balls of fluff. The attentive parents honk wildly, wings flapping, when another group tries to invade the pond bank. The second group waddles back to the water’s edge. I hold my breath as I watch the invaders cross the pond. They have four goslings, and snapping turtles as big as otters lurk under the water. If the turtles have bellies full of trout, they will let the goslings be.
Five-year-old Nick spots a giant bullfrog squatting in the muddy bank. The frog croaks a steady bass, accompanying the red-winged blackbirds’ song. A small, rather plain brown bird sits in the evergreen tree just above us. All at once, he sings his entire repertoire. How does this complex arrangement of music come from one small beak? In a blink, he’s gone, off to some other engagement. As if disturbed by the racket, a heron lazily flaps across the far end of the pond. If he hadn’t moved, you might not know he was there, hidden in the tall reeds.
The big fisherman reminds Nicholas to never mind the frog and keep an eye on his line instead.
Then the stars of the pond arrive. The osprey assesses the conditions, circles once, twice, pauses in midair, then dives with great force, making a splash. He emerges from the water with something dangling from his talons and heads back toward the high trees. Meanwhile, his mate soars out for her turn. In the coming weeks, the hidden nestlings will fish with their parents.
My family is wishing we could fish like that. I applaud and cheer, though some of the other fishers do not appreciate my exuberance.
I take the hint, and with me Katherine, leaving Nick to catch his limit. Go easy on the boy, I remind the big fisherman, forgetting that fishing is serious business. Even my son refuses to quit until they have more trout.
A fish bends the line, and the boy, net in hand, runs to assist.
His father beams with pride.
It has been a good day. We all have gotten what we wanted and then some.
Writer Eileen Slovak of Chesapeake Beach is a stay-at-home mother beginning a second career in writing. This is her first story for Bay Weekly.