When we finally reached the bank of the spillway, I gathered up my charges: four freckled, tow-headed boys, jabbering with excitement, all hyped up on soda and candy, rods at the ready.
We’d stopped at the convenience store for nightcrawlers, where the kids begged for drinks. I almost said no. But then, what the heck, I figured, it’s summer, and you’re only 9 years old once. Next, we picked up bobbers at the Five & Dime, which has an entire aisle devoted to novelty candy. I insisted that they all share just one package—so they chose a complete gummy meal, with gummy cheeseburger, gummy hot dog, gummy fries, and gummy condiments. We walked right past the ice-cream shop on the way to the water, but I had to stand my ground somewhere.
At the spillway, on a muddy bank, the boys caught one bluegill after another, faster than I could unhook them, untangle lines, and take pictures. It was chaos. Then, to each of their main lines, I tied a dropper and added a Hare’s Ear Nymph from a fly box in my vest. The madness doubled as the boys hauled in fish two at a time. They jumped and squealed. When they tried to stand still—to bait a hook or make a cast—they actually wiggled, like overexcited puppies. It didn’t last long. But for a little while, it was pure summer rapture.
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One by one, the boys lost interest, and we headed back home. I hadn’t fished at all, of course. It never really occurred to me until I dropped my boy with his mom and his buds with their parents. Then I sneaked back down to the spillway with my fly rod and caught bluegills nonstop until dusk. Walking back to the car, I passed the ice-cream shop and noticed that the soft-serve flavor of the day was coffee. What the heck, I figured, it’s summer, and you’re only 48 once.