By Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal
“Opportunities are everywhere and so you must always let your hook be hanging. When you least expect it, a great fish will swim by.”
– Og Mandino
“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.”
– Doug Larson
“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”
– John Buchan
Several years ago, I gave my niece a shiny new, bright blue Zebco rod and reel. Several months ago, I noticed it hanging in her Huntsville garage, tags still dangling. It had yet to be used.
Bailey loves to fish. I don’t remember when we first realized she’d inherited a good measure of the Criss patience required for happy fishing. I do remember being amazed she had any angling forbearance at all.
Mind you, I am talking about patience for a single and specific activity. Francis Criss Sr., my grandfather, possessed powerful patience when it came to lingering over his line, longing to lose sight of his lure. In other situations that demanded patience, not so much.
But beside the pond or in the lake, Granddaddy did – and Bailey Cook does – rock with patience.
My patience while fishing, however, was developed over time. I did not have it as young as Bailey.
In my early days of fishing, my attention span lasted about 15 minutes and then I’d be whining to go home.
Going home was neither easy nor allowed when my grandparents and I were fishing in the huge expanse of Grenada Lake in the boat behind which my grandfather taught all of his grandchildren to water ski.
Thanks to the snack selections and storytelling skills of my sweet grandmother, I was entertained while Granddaddy continued fishing.
Two Saturdays ago, my friend Cheryl and I took a Tupelo-visiting Bailey to the home of friends out in the county. These friends are lucky to live on a lake.
Finally, the tags came off Bailey’s rod and reel, her hook was baited and she commenced her first cast.
Before Cheryl and I could even appraise our own angling accouterments, we saw Bailey calmly reeling in something that seemed to have some heft.
She continued to silently struggle with that which she had hooked until Cheryl made it over and helped hold the line so it would not break.
Finally, a good-looking and very large catfish landed on the bank at Bailey’s feet. Hook removed from its mouth, the fish swam around in Johnny Hanna’s swimming pool while we determined whether we’d keep it or give it back its freedom, which we ultimately did.
Bailey rebaited her hook, cast again and got her second fish, a bream, and I had yet to pierce the first cricket with my hook.
I was losing all my patience at not being able to fish while my niece and, later, Cheryl, continued to haul in one bream after another.
I feel certain the fish that played with my line for a time and bent my hook was a catfish that must have loomed larger than Bailey’s. But we’ll never know, since it got away.
So, Bailey caught the first and the biggest during our Saturday of fishing. And we were proud of her.
Her great-grandfather would have been proud of her, too.