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CHILDREN'S BOOKSHELF

An Ocean Ran Through Him

July 17, 1994|MARTIN ZIMMERMAN

"Daaaaaaaddddd!!!!!! I hooked myself!!!!!" The panicked cry echoed off the nearby cliffs and sent me racing into the surf to my 6-year-old son Jeffrey, who had managed to impale himself during his fishing debut. I gently pulled the hook out, a few tears were shed and he rebounded quickly and popped back into the surf trailing his line behind him.

This adventure was prompted by "The Kids Book of Fishing and Tackle Box" by writer-illustrator Michael J. Rosen (Workman Publishing: $12.95), a nifty little kit complete with three hooks and sinkers, 30 feet of monofilament line, one weight and one bobber in a small plastic tackle box as well as an introductory book about the sport. The kit is adequate for first-timers but the real treasure is the slim paperback--a well-written and well-illustrated guide that packs an incredible amount of information into its 96 pages.

But don't take my word for it--I'm not a fan. An avid fly fisherman perused the book and called it "excellent, a very nice job, particularly in the chapter sidebars." He also praised the book's ecological focus and fish-friendly approach.

As to why I needed a book for something as "simple" as fishing, trust me--this is a complicated, arcane world. Studying the cabala is a walk in the park compared to walking into a tackle shop and asking "What do I need to take my son fishing?," especially if you don't know the difference between a spinner and a spoon, a perch and a bluegill.

Since I had ruled out the lakes in the area as being too far away, I offered Jeffrey a choice of the ocean or a trout pond in Agoura. I explained to him that at the for-profit trout pond we'd have to kill the fish and remove it while at the beach we could release it and send it on its way. This started a philosophical debate that lasted into the night--Jeffrey didn't want to kill any fish but also didn't want to be near any place where he "might catch a shark and get pulled in."

After ruling out some not-so-obvious options ("Can we put the fish on ice and freeze him and release him in Colorado?"), we finally agreed to try the beach.

We got up bright and late the next day (hey, I couldn't miss "Garfield and Friends") and headed out to the wilds of Palos Verdes Estates--which turned out to be exactly six miles further than those lakes I had rejected--where my friend Lauren and her son Michael lived. They had volunteered to be our guides. Michael, age 6, was a seasoned veteran--the kid has an expert side-arm casting technique and carries a serious Daiwa rod and reel. Jeffrey had to make do with a fig-tree branch I had pruned a few weeks earlier. (I know, I know--he can tell his therapist 40 years from now about how I traumatized him. Oh, the shame of it all.)

We headed for Flat Rock beach, which turned out to be too tough a cliff-side descent for two worried parents. We then drove over to the Rolling Hills Preparatory School and hiked down the asphalt trail to the beach.

Setting up on the rocks, we encountered our first problem: Jeffrey discovered hundreds of tiny crabs that hide in the tide pools . . . and decided they were going to eat him. Michael set up a few yards away and cast off; Jeffrey calmed down and got into it after I gently reassured him ("Kid, if you think I drove 700 miles to come here and not fish, you are sadly mistaken!"). And promptly hooked a rock. And lost sinker No. 1 and hook No. 1.

And also decided that this was pretty neat after all!

We moved off the rocks to try beach-casting and the kids had a lot of fun playing around, tossing wet-sand balls and so on as well as fishing. There was that one Kodak moment of panic when Jeffrey hooked himself but when it came time to go, I had to drag him out of the water.

Final tally for the two fishermen: Two rocks caught. One pair of swim trunks caught. One leg caught.

Bad news: I suspect Jeffrey might be harboring the Eternal Optimist Fishing Gene (he didn't get it from my side of the family). When we returned home that afternoon, he excitedly told his mother, "I just can't believe I caught two things! Two!"

A budding compleat angler is gaining on you, Izaak Walton.

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