Trying to catch the Big One
WHO: Globe reporter Mark Shanahan and his son, Beckett
WHERE: Menotomy Rocks Park, Arlington
As a kid growing up in Western Mass., I used to like to fish, to bait a hook with a juicy, homegrown worm or crawler and then, standing on a little bridge near my home, drop the line into the cloudy water of the Mill River.
More often than not, I didn’t catch anything, but the prospect of pulling a fat trout from the dirty depths was enough to keep me coming back. Fast forward 35 years. During a summer vacation a few years ago, my kids found a fishing pole in our rental house and we headed down to the dock.
My 5-year-old son quickly learned how to cast - and caught two fish - and soon asked for a rod of his own. I obliged, of course, but cautioned the aspiring angler that fishing can be a deeply frustrating enterprise, and every outing doesn’t end with the Big One wriggling in your hands.
He wasn’t deterred, and so in recent months I’ve found myself on the banks of anonymous rivers and lakes, watching Beckett - now 7 - cast his line and then patiently wait for a bite. These trips almost always begin with a visit to Arlington Bait & Tackle on Mass. Ave., a family-owned hole-in-the-wall that has everything you need, from rods and reels to salmon eggs and shiners. (We usually pick up a few worms and a little something to add to our tackle box.)
One of our favorite spots - because we always catch a couple of bass there - is Menotomy Rocks Park in Arlington. The 35-acre park has trails, a field where people let their dogs run off leash, and a 3-acre pond perfect for novices like us. Beckett hasn’t yet mastered the art of baiting the hook, but his cast is surprisingly fluid and well-placed.
When his red-and-white bobber suddenly dips below the surface of the water and he feels a subtle tug on the line, Beckett’s eyes widen and he growls, “Oh yeah, I got one.’’ (It’s as exciting to watch this as it is to experience it.) We never keep the fish, but we don’t throw them back until Beckett has inspected them, checking out their color, their fins, and their gaping mouths.
With any luck, my son will lose interest in fishing before he becomes obsessed and starts donning waders to fly-fish on the West Branch of the Penobscot River. Until then, though, we’re going to have fun.