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In reel time

The first time fishing with his son shows Dad other lures that entice small fry

Email|Print| Text size + By Tom Long
Globe Correspondent / April 22, 2007

RINDGE, N.H. -- With my son's fishing hook dangling perilously close to my nose, I ripped the plastic lid off a Styrofoam container, pawed through an oily pile of dirt, and cornered a worm that was wriggling as if its life depended on it.

Fighting revulsion, I impaled the night crawler on a barbed hook. As my son cocked the fishing rod to cast, Mikey, our dog, spotted the oscillating worm, and 104 pounds of black Lab lurched at the tender morsel. I grabbed him so he wouldn't knock my son into the water, fell to my knees, and mud-wrestled with the overexuberant dog on the shore of Lake Contoocook.

A 7-year-old boy, his father, his dog, and his first fishing trip, a rite of passage for all involved.

Sam wanted to go fishing. And I had promised. The expedition sounded good in theory -- but in practice? How exactly does one catch a fish these days? It had been a long time.

When in doubt , Google.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website advises that "a beginner is more likely to catch a fish using live bait than with any other method. The king of live bait is the lowly worm. And it will catch not only the easier-to-find sunfish, and catfish, but will attract any bass that happen to be nearby as well."

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources website suggests that you choose a spot close to home, make sure there are restrooms near, keep the trip short, and plan alternative activities if your child gets bored.

That was the easy part. We chose the Woodbound Inn, a rustic 19th-century resort, with funky 1950s lakefront cottages that allowed us to concentrate on fishing and leave the cooking to the innkeepers. The resort has shuffleboard, table tennis, and a golf course. It also has a stocked trout pond, but we preferred to test the waters of Lake Contoocook, where the season opens annually on the fourth Saturday in April.

Tackle? We found a telescoping fishing rod, reel, and tackle kit on overstock.com for $22.49.

The license? Sam didn't need one because he is under 16, but as a resident, I got a state fishing license online for $35.

With Sam and Mikey in the back seat and luggage and a cooler in the trunk, we stopped along the way to get gas and a container of night crawlers. Never underestimate what you can buy in a gas station in New Hampshire.

As we motored west on Route 101 we stopped at Miller State Park and took the 1.3-mile paved road past scrub pines and microwave towers to the 2,290-foot summit of Pack Monadnock. We could see Mount Monadnock 12 miles to the west, Mount Washington to the north. Who knows how many fish were out there waiting?

We took a left onto Route 202 in Peterborough and proceeded into the Monadnock Region, "the quiet corner" of New Hampshire, as some call it, where fast-food joints are practically unheard of and there isn't a neon sign in sight.

The Woodbound Inn has a large white main house and dining room and wraparound porch and several outbuildings. Hiking trails radiate from the grounds and there are a beach and other facilities.

We were directed to a cottage named Oakwood , right on the water about a quarter of a mile from the inn, where dinner and breakfast would be served.

There was a wood-burning stove, a couple of worn captain's chairs, and a dormitory refrigerator that buzzed like a small airplane when the motor was running. We immediately turned the chairs toward the room-length picture window to take advantage of the gorgeous view of Lake Contoocook, only 100 feet away, and the rockbound summit of Mount Monadnock on the far side of the water.

"Anyone for fishing?" asked Dad. Not Sam, he wanted to go to the beach. We spent the next few hours frolicking in the water.

As the sun began to cast long shadows, it was time for dinner. The proper attire for dinner in a country inn? In Sam's case it was a cape and cowl : He donned his Batman costume.

We attracted some double takes as I accompanied the young superhero across the golf course and through the woods to the inn with his black cape fluttering behind him.

The well-trod floorboards creaked as I escorted the caped crusader to a table with white linen and ice water in crystal glasses.

The inn traces its history to a 1760 land grant. When the railroad stopped nearby it was a favorite of wealthy city dwellers who sometimes stayed year - round. At dinner, Batman chose a Shirley Temple. The menu was beef, chops, haddock, and other hearty country fare. I enjoyed the steak .

After a quick game of table tennis in the play barn we returned to Oakwood to watch sunset over the lake as the mosquitoes began to descend. I got a fire going in the woodstove for that all-important caveman vibe. Sam decided not to sleep in the bedroom, but on the couch in the living room, because he wanted to see the mountain when he woke up.

As dawn broke, a Canada goose led five fuzzy goslings across an inlet in the shallows. A chickadee roller-coasted through the brush. A long-necked mallard flew by quacking nervously. Out came the fishing gear.

After I finally wrestled the worm onto his hook, Sam, who had practiced at home, expertly cast the worm into the shallows. The red and white bobber had barely settled in the water when it was tugged underneath the surface, and Sam gleefully reeled in a sunfish the size of a sardine tin. He grinned ear to ear as he held up the minuscule bottom feeder. You would have thought he had landed Moby- Dick .

As our weekend idyll continued, we took a break from the waterfront to enjoy a Norman Rockwell moment. I shouldered a daypack and we set off from the inn on the 45-minute hike through the woods to Cathedral of the Pines, a hilltop memorial overlooking Monadnock. In addition to a facility for outdoor religious services, it has a gift shop and fieldstone bell tower with a carillon and four bas-reliefs designed by Rockwell and his son Peter, which honor the patriotic service of women. The next morning we were up early for fishing, but my son wanted to return to the beach. After checkout we decided to stop at the Milford Fish Hatchery on the way home. A mile or two from Route 101, the facility is owned by the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game and has a funky museum that traces a fish's life from egg to pond.

When I pulled into the parking lot I was surprised to find both Mike y and Sam asleep in the back seat. That was OK. The quiet drive home gave me time to pat myself on the back for a job well done. Sam cast four times and caught four fish: three pumpkinseed sunfish and an elfin brook trout. Total time spent fishing? About a half an hour.

Tom Long, a freelance writer in Nashua, can be reached at tomlong918@msn.com.

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