- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 25, 2006

When 8-year-old Jake Jewell asked his grandfather to take him fishing, it was a no-brainer. Jake’s summer vacation had begun, the weather was perfect and the fish were biting — well, they were biting now and then.

One thing immediately became clear: men must share some quality time if they’re going to get to know each other better. They need to share their dreams and recount outlandish tales.

So here was Jake and his Poppie doing manly things, such as launching a boat at the local Wheatley Lake in Gilbert Run Park, slipping on the life vests while shooing away insolent Canada geese and Jake hanging onto the boat rope until his grandpa returned from parking the truck.

We rummaged through a dirt-filled carton of night crawlers and picked a particularly juicy-looking one, then dissected it with a pocket knife. Inch-long pieces of the worm quickly became the dressing on small hooks; bobbers were pinched to the lines some three feet above the squishy baits and the offerings were cast into the lake near a weed-filled cove.

Bang! Just like that, Jake caught the day’s first sunfish, a chunky bluegill that gave the boy a respectable tussle because Jake’s personal outfit — a 4-foot-long ultra-light rod and a tiny spinning reel loaded with 6-pound testline — was meant for this type of fishing.

After we put the bluegill into a water-filled, aerated livewell, Jake figured it was time to eat. After all, he had been in the boat fishing for at least 30 minutes. So the two of us had “breakfast.” Jake devoured a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; Poppie stuck to his personal favorite: a hoagie drizzled with a little olive oil and oregano, a lot of thin deli ham, turkey, sweet peppers, Italian salami, slices of tomato and Vidalia onion.

A half hour after we ate, having added a few more sunfish to the livewell, Jake decided to show his Poppie how easy it was to make socially unacceptable noises by putting his right hand under the left armpit and quickly squeezing it up and down. Hoo, boy! He made sounds that would have emptied an elevator before it reached its desired floor.

But we were on the water, all alone, with only a couple of mallard ducks nearby emitting some fairly raucous noise themselves.

Things got better and better as the morning sun began to be felt. Poppie applied sunblock to Jake’s face, neck, arms and hands, then did the same to his own exposed skin. Jake drank the last little carton of fruit juice by 10 a.m., then wanted to make a zillion-dollar bet that he could burp as well as any grownup. I declined the wager, so he laughed and within seconds sounded like a love-struck bullfrog.

In the distance, Charles County park employees began to rent bright yellow paddleboats to park visitors, and Jake thought it might be a grand idea to tie our boat to a dock and join the paddling throng. Poppie shook his head, preferring instead to stay in the far more comfortable, wide 18-foot boat.

Eventually, Jake latched onto a crappie and without giving it a second thought removed the hook as he was taught, stuck his thumb and index finger into the crappie’s mouth and deposited it into the aerated tank. There’d be fried fillets on his plate later that day.

See? There are days when men need to bond and spend time with each other. Besides, Jake has not yet learned how to properly scratch his belly or spit a watermelon seed so far you can’t even see it anymore. (His dad — a golfer, for heaven’s sake — will just have to undo the damage Poppie has caused if he objects to any of this.)

Either way, the scratching lesson will come when we go fishing again very soon.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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