By Richard Hannan
Not long ago, I went fishing. This is a pretty unremarkable thing for me; I enjoy the quiet reflection that fishing brings and, while I am no great angler, I get out as often as I can in hopes of relaxing and catching a fish or two. But this most recent fishing trip was different. It was, in fact, perhaps the best fishing experience one could hope for. Did I land a record-breaking fish? Not even close. Did I discover a secret fishing hole and haul them in by the dozens? Far from it. I actually didn’t catch a single fish (although I was pretty handy with the net). I caught something much bigger – a group of future fisherman.
Enthusiasm was a contagious thing at Bonneville Hatchery two Fridays ago. As summer sun glinted off of rows of meticulously baited fishing poles and the wind whipped through the trees, it was tough to say who was more excited – the hundreds of hungry trout jumping in the small pond or the dozens of members from the United Cerebral Palsy of Oregon and Southwest Washington (UCP) who came to fish as part of Disabled Free Fishing Day put on by Catch A Special Thrill (CAST), The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW), and Kiwanis Club.
Excited yells and high-fives echoed around the Hatchery as anglers of all experience levels landed fish left and right. Fish were held up with pride and a spirit of good-natured competition began to take hold as fish were compared. “This is my first time fishing and I know I got the biggest fish!” Exclaimed one of my new fishing buddies, David, who took a break from reeling ‘em in to take a photo of his catch with Dana Perez and Matt Stinson from USFWS (photo below).
As the CASTing continued, I was also able to reconnect with old fishing friends like Mark, a UCP member who attends many of our fishing events and lends his skills and smiles to less experienced group members (Mark and I are in the group photo above at the far right). Mark laughs as he lands a trout seconds after his bait hits the water and we joke that our luck wasn’t quite this good last year at our Drano Lake fishing day (see photo below). But fish or no fish, Mark’s grin and his passion for being outdoors never dims. For him, as for the rest of us, fishing is a way to connect. Regardless of skill or ability, we are able to connect with nature, with each other, and, if we are lucky, with a fish or two.
Like any other fishermen, this group cleaned their catches, baited their hooks, and told fish tales about who landed the biggest fish. They celebrated each and every catch. The tug of a bite on was enough to elicit cheering and each fisherman’s catch was a victory for the group. This was not the solitary, reflective state in which I usually fish. This was better. I may have been a part of first fishing experiences for some in this group but they enabled me to experience the joy of fishing. And that is a feeling that should be available to all of us.
Experience the joy for yourself and watch this video of Robert, a first time fisherman, catching a fish.
To see more photos from this event: http://bit.ly/13MzAF3
Read the Dish on Fish blog about the event: http://fish-notes.blogspot.com/2013/08/catch-special-thrill_7.html
To learn more about the CAST for Kids Foundation: http://www.castforkids.org/
To find fishing recreation opportunities in Oregon: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/fishing/
To learn more about United Cerebral Palsy of Oregon and SW Washington:http://www.ucpaorwa.org/