Countdown To The Trout Opener: Ophelia’s First Fish

Editor’s note: To prepare for Saturday’s statewide trout opener, we’re sharing trout stories that appear in our April issue. Today: A 3-year-old girl’s introduction to the joys of fishing.

Author Tim Hovey helps 3-year-old family member Ophelia fish on the dock at a local reservoir. With trout biting all morning, everyone was hopeful Ophelia would get excited about the prospects of catching her first fish. (TIM E. HOVEY)

By Tim E. Hovey

If you’re an angler, you’ve probably spent some time soaking a line for stocked trout at one time or another. This type of fishing usually is something new anglers do to get fishing experience.

However, even veteran fishermen find this nostalgic bait-soaking style of fishing relaxing and enjoyable. In fact, over the last few years, I’ve found visiting a few stock ponds during the season to be a fun family affair.

Last season, I was talking with my cousin Jeff at a family barbecue. I was telling him that my wife Cheryl and I had been catching nice-sized trout at one of the local reservoirs. I pulled out my phone and showed him a few photos; that was all it took.

After a little coordination, we agreed to meet out at the lake the following Saturday. Jeff had mentioned that he wanted to bring out his oldest granddaughter, 3-year-old Ophelia, to see if she could catch her first fish. Without saying a word, I knew the entire goal of the next Saturday was to see if we could get Ophelia on a trout.

Ophelia, fishing with her Disney rod, waited for a bite, but “didn’t seem too excited about anything but her juice box and the snacks Grandpa Jeff had given her,” Hovey reports. (TIM E. HOVEY)

CHERYL AND I ARRIVED at the lake early to stake out a good area on the dock. The morning was cold, but no one else was on the pond. We set up our fishing chairs and got things ready to fish. I had told Jeff to just bring his rods and we’d take care of everything else.

We had prerigged our rods with Carolina rigs on an 18-inch leader on the hook side. We were using Berkley floating trout bait in a variety of colors and flavors. The setup allowed the bait to float 18 inches above the pond bottom, where it would be more easily encountered by the trout.

Fishing two rods each, Cheryl and I chose four different colors and casted out off the floating dock. Within minutes, Cheryl caught a chunky trout on her bright green bait. Jeff had mentioned that if we caught a few fish, we could have a fish fry at his place in the afternoon. Cheryl unhooked her trout and placed it on the stringer.

A short time later, Jeff showed up loaded up with gear and delicately holding the hand of little Ophelia. We helped them set up their gear and they started fishing. As with many new activities and young children, Ophelia was shy and essentially stayed close to Jeff.

She sat in her small fishing chair and held her Disney Frozen fishing pole waiting for a bite with complete and total disinterest. In the meantime, Cheryl, Jeff and I had a great time catching trout. It didn’t seem to matter what flavor or color we used; the fish were on a bite. As the morning unfolded, the stringer became crowded.

When it comes to static fishing, where I set the rod down and wait for a bite, I’ve always been a line watcher. I’ll set the rod down and keep the line slack. If a fish grabs the bait, he’ll swim off with almost zero resistance. I feel like I get more hookups using this lazy technique.

Despite the hot trout bite, Ophelia had yet to catch a fish, let alone get a bite. The adults took turns trying to get her interested in catching her first fish, but she didn’t seem too excited about anything except her juice box and the snacks Grandpa Jeff had given her as soon as they arrived.

As the bite continued, we adults started competing. Jeff was convinced that he had caught the largest trout so far. Since all of our fish were on the same stringer, it was tough to tell for sure, but he’d landed a trout close to 2 pounds shortly after he and Ophelia arrived.

During a slight lull in the action, I walked over to see if Ophelia wanted to reel in a fish I had just hooked. She reluctantly tried to reel the fish in, but she didn’t seem too excited. That is, until she saw the fish splashing at the surface. I watched her eyes get big and she started to smile. After that, she seemed a little more excited to at least sit and fish.

Ophelia and the author’s wife Cheryl taking in the scene on the floating dock. (TIM E. HOVEY)
Grandpa Jeff got the big trout of the day with this estimated 2-pounder. (TIM E. HOVEY)

WITH THE BITE EASING up and Ophelia stating that she was hungry, we decided to call it a day. While we were cleaning up, I remembered that I had cast out Ophelia’s little Disney rod a bit earlier. As I always do, I’d left a bunch of slack in the line when I placed the rod on the dock. The line was now taut and angling to the right. I picked it up and gave it a slight tug and felt angry pressure on the other end.

I called Ophelia over and knelt next to her. I told her she caught a fish. She got excited and started reeling. In no time her trout was in the net. Since we had plenty already, I asked her what she wanted to do with her catch. Without answering, she just pointed into the water. We quickly released the trout and made the short hike back to the parking area with all our gear and fish.

When the Disney rod got hit and little Ophelia reeled it back to the dock, she was asked what she wanted to do with her fish. “Without answering, she just pointed into the water,” Hovey writes. “We quickly released the trout.” (TIM E. HOVEY)

We took some time to take a few photos and then headed to McDonald’s for lunch. I told Jeff I’d filet all the fish and then head over later. Back at home, while I was out preparing the fish, Cheryl came and showed me a photo she’d taken of me and Ophelia. I smiled as she held up the phone for me to see. It reminded me of when my daughters were that age and fishing with me.

I’m hoping Ophelia will remember the trip to the pond with Grandpa Jeff and how she caught her first trout. I know I will. CS