New fishing poles in hand, my sister and I skipped excitedly to the docks, jumped onto the pontoon boat, and waited for our father. It was a chilly autumn morning, and we were going fishing for the first time.
Our father started the boat and the low gurgle of the engine echoed through the cove and the stinging smell of gasoline pierced my nostrils. The propeller stirred the water and I watched the ripples collide with the side of the dock. Dad followed the shoreline until we found a secluded cove. I opened the tackle box, revealing a jumble of hooks, plastic fish, and line. My sister, Jamie, and I rummaged through to pick out the most appealing bait. I chose a red and purple jelly worm that sparkled. Amused, I stretched it out, wiggled it around and stared at the thousands of teeny sparkles embedded under its skin. Little did I know, this would be the most excitement I would have for a while.
With the help of our father, Jamie and I cast our lines into the murky water and waited. My eyes searched for the bubbles that would signify fish. I was sure that any minute I would feel a tug. Minutes passed. Nothing. I decided the fish just hadn’t noticed my appetizing bait. I also assured myself that the fish weren’t intelligent enough to know the worm was fake.
The fish just weren’t biting. I cast my line and reeled it in again and again. I felt like a robot. Bored, I glanced at my father, who had stationed himself at the back of the boat. As I watched him change his bait for what seemed like the trillionth time, I couldn’t help but smirk. He was really into this whole fishing thing but wasn’t having any better luck than we were. Focusing on my line, I continued my cast-and-reel cycle. The minutes passed like days and I began to wonder if there were even any fish in the lake.
Giving up on bait, Jamie and I decided to use bobbers, the lazy way to fish. After a half hour of staring at our bobbers, we gave up completely and ran around the boat, scaring away any fish. Then we pleaded to go back to shore, but Dad ignored us. Eventually, he realized that his attempts were a waste of time, and we headed back.
At the dock, our father went to the marina to chat with a friend. Jamie and I threw sticks and rocks into the lake, taking pleasure in destroying the glassy surface. All of a sudden, we noticed a different movement and walked over to investigate it. It was a school of fish. Overcome with excitement, we grabbed our poles; those fish were as good as caught.
My sister and I realized we had no idea how to rig our poles. Where was our father when we needed him? The plain hooks would have to suffice. Spotting our cooler, I yanked open the lid and grabbed a hot dog. Fish were bound to like hot dogs! As fast we could, my sister and I jammed on chunks of meat and dropped our lines into the water right below us.
The fish began swimming around our bait, taking little pecks. The more they nibbled at the hot dogs, the more excited we became. Suddenly, my sister cried, “I’ve got one!” She yanked her pole out and we gaped at the fish swinging in the air. A few seconds later, I was startled to feel a sharp tug on my line. I had caught a fish, too. We yelled for our father, who removed the fish and allowed us to examine the critters before gently tossing them back.
Jamie and I were beside ourselves with glee. How was it that we had spent hours on the lake with expensive gear and not caught a thing, but here on the dock we were catching fish with hot dogs and hooks?
If nothing else, I have this idea from that day: sometimes the easiest solution is the most effective. Based on four years of high school, I have learned that it really is easier and less stressful to break down things and look at them in their most basic state. Expensive tools aren’t always of the best quality, just as the most complex solutions aren’t always the best. You don’t have to write your college essay with sophisticated vocabulary to ensure acceptance. Henry David Thoreau put it best: “Simplicity, simplicity, let your affairs be but two or three ....”
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.