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Frye: Adults, kids need each other

| Saturday, May 4, 2013, 11:57 p.m.

Every boy who wants to become a fisherman needs an old man with a big tackle box and a bigger heart.

Mine was my grandfather.

I was among the younger half of his grandchildren, so our time as partners in the outdoors lasted less than a decade. But they were good years.

When not on the water, he nurtured my interest in fishing in a small upstairs room of his house. For him, it was a catch-all space. It had been a bedroom when my mother was a girl, but in time it held his gun cabinet, a closet full of Woolrich hunting clothes, red rubber Goodyear hunting boots, fishing rods and tackle boxes, and other odds and ends.

For me, it was a Watkins liniment-scented wonderland, a Cabela's in miniature before there was such a thing.

When we'd visit, he would eventually give me a knowing look and we'd excuse ourselves from the rest of the group and head for that room. He'd pull out a tackle box and start going through the contents.

I'd ask a few questions, about what things were and what they were used to catch. Mostly, he did the talking. He'd tell stories, some of which, even at a young age, I'd heard many times before. With others, I had to search his face for a hint of a smile to tell whether they were true or tall tales.

After a while, he'd say he had to get back to the other adults. But before he left, he'd tell me to split everything in that particular tackle box into two piles, one for him and one for me. The idea, he said, was that we'd both be ready and equipped the next time we got the chance to go fishing together.

Of course, in hindsight, I know he was really preparing me for when I was going to have to go without him.

Those days came too soon.

I always thought that, had we been neighbors and not relatives, and similar in age rather than six decades apart, we'd have been friends. As it was we still were, at least as much as possible in a relationship where he had so much more to give than I.

But I like to think that I helped him in at least one way.

Some Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission research into what it takes to make a child into a fishermen found that mentors are the key. Official, commission-sponsored learn-to-fish-type programs are OK, but relationships with other fishermen, especially family members, are so much more effective.

Adult anglers are an eager resource, too. The commission found that 98 percent of adults said they would fish more often if only a child would ask them.

I asked, and Pap went. We both made memories.

Perhaps old men with big tackle boxes and bigger hearts need boys, too.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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