Take it from someone who hasn’t cast a line into a body of water for at least 40 years.
I like fishing.
Well, let’s say I like the idea of fishing. I’ll qualify it further by saying there’s a particular type of fishing I like: catch-and-release style. The kind of fishing that when the tackle boxes are being packed away for the day, the deep-voiced announcer proclaims “No fish were harmed in the course of this pleasant morning.”
Generally speaking, fishing seems to be a calm activity. It is quiet. People move slowly. They move deliberately. I don’t have those traits. Perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to the idea of fishing, even if I don’t want to get my hands dirty. Sometimes, you’ve just gotta “be.” Be in nature. Be in the moment.
I went happily into that moment last Saturday at the Spring Fishing Derby held by the Palos Park Recreation & Parks Department. It was a fantastic morning with the low sun glinting off Papoose Lake on McCarthy Road, just west of LaGrange. Men, women and children arrived with fishing gear in hand. Those who didn’t have equipment were able to borrow the necessities, thanks to support from Bass Pro Shops, a retailer of hunting, fishing and outdoor gear.
The event was mostly for children, to be sure, but it certainly wasn’t limited to just kids. Elsewhere in today’s edition you’ll see pictures of kids having a good time at water’s edge. There’s a brief article about the derby winners in their respective age categories.
There was serious fishing taking place but there was some horsing around, too. Let’s face it—kids of certain ages don’t typically stay focused for too long on any one thing. In fact, the entire event ran for less than three hours. It was just enough time to catch a fish or three…just enough time to teach your daughter to cast…just enough time to get a balanced start to a busy weekend.
On the shore of Papoose Lake for those two hours, it all worked very well, even if some people had a right to be a bit frazzled.
Take LeeAnn Fisk, for instance.
Fisk is the director of the Recreation & Parks Department and, as the organizer of the fishing derby, was the go-to person on-site. As if she didn’t have enough responsibility on her plate that morning—about 100 anglers, a small team of staff she was managing, the official tally sheets, fairly frequent questions and requests for help—she was also handling knots. Lot and lots of knots.
“My husband would say to just cut it already,” she laughed as she methodically threaded her way through a tangled web of monofilament fishing line in order to get a derby participant going again.
Waiting for Fisk to work her magic was Pepsi Patterson who, without an operating fishing rod for herself or her children, was temporarily relegated to onlooker status. Patterson introduced me to her son, Tai and he, too, had a rat’s nest of knotted line on his hands.
At just about the furthest edge of shore from the event tent, Vince Bestrick and his son, Anthony, had staked out a spot almost alongside the road. It was a short hike over uneven ground and fallen tree limbs but the still water against the road bank must’ve seemed promising.
As Anthony gave some of the most vigorous casts I could imagine from a 13-year-old, Vince and I talked an easy, lakeside talk about the economy, politics and keeping kids focused on something positive.
“Hey, we’d better be careful or we won’t hear the horn” (signaling the end of the event), Bestrick told his son who reared back for one more cast…and then one more.
I got lucky passing by Frank Ristucci, 12, who had just reeled in an eight-inch bluegill. Up the embankment he walked to have his fish officially measured, and then it was back to the waterline to let his prize go.
For those who came away with a prize and for the majority who came away from Papoose Lake with just a good feeling, time on the water was time well-spent.