By JIM ABRAMS

It seems like yesterday I was sitting in the grass with the sun reddening my arms and neck, an old can filled with dirt and night crawlers, and a bottle of Orange Crush. The trusty Zebco and hand-me-down rod were perched in the fork of a detached tree branch trimmed especially for the purpose.

A red and white orb was moving to the wind’s whispers among the reflections of drifting clouds. My concentration centered upon that object, with its invisible tether connecting it from my rod to the unseen denizens I hoped to soon meet. That small, colorful bobber would be the key to my immediate future. Would it be success or failure?

But how could I fail? I couldn’t imagine any other place that I would rather have been at that moment. Quite honestly, as I look back at the boy sitting on that lake’s bank so many years ago, what I would give to join him once more!

Back then, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t pitching an Adams fly on Michigan’s fabled Au Sable or grabbing the net while frantically trying to fill my limit on Lake Erie. All that counted was that I was there with my dad, brother, a friend, or even alone. Catching a fish may well have been the goal, but there always seemed to be more to those early outings.

Maybe it was because I was still in awe of the experience. Every soaring hawk, every scolding redwing, every swimming snake, every darting dragonfly: Each captured my attention as I found myself in their world while learning to make it my own. Each was truly an expedition into a new universe.

Sometimes, as we get older, we lose the wonder we once felt. Angling somehow becomes a competition with the fish and our friends, and we fall prey to advertisers’ promises of bigger, better and more. Yet locked inside is that youngster who once marveled at the rainbow hues of a sunfish; the same one who didn’t catch a fish, but he couldn’t wait to tell anyone with an ear about the snake he’d touched.

I really liked that kid back then, maybe more than I like the man, but, like you, he grew up and left Pan’s Neverland and became serious about work and life. Yet the boy is still inside, anxiously waiting for the next outing: a chance to once again be amazed at the wilder world that thrives just outside of grown-up cares.

Inside each of us is something that tugs us toward the water’s edge to look at the mesmerizing shimmer, with our imagination drifting with each wave; a relaxing familiarity buried deep inside our souls.

It’s great that you get a limit, land the biggest or net the first, but don’t let that natural human competitiveness lock away that kid inside. Look around, see our wild world as it is and not as a playpen full of toys.

It is truly a gift that we should each honor, appreciate, share and conserve for future generations. There are kids imprisoned in adult bodies all around us. Invite one of them on your next fishing adventure and you may just witness the transformation. Fishing licenses are cheap, and there’s no limit or age restrictions on memories.

“I suppose it’s like the ticking crocodile, isn’t it? Time is chasing after all of us.” “” J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Along the way:

Many thanks to Don Buckles for sending me a clipping he carried in his wallet for such a long time and for the inspiration to write this column.

• We fish.

• We also clean local waterways so families like us can fish and swim.

• We help build public boat ramps for easy access to the water.

• We provide fishing and water safety education for kids.

• We maintain a healthy fish population so tomorrow’s anglers can enjoy a catch.

• We restore the condition of rivers to help fish and wildlife thrive.

• We fund long-term plans to protect our lakes and streams.

• All because we buy a fishing license.

This is taken from the “Take Me Fishing” program, a great website to gather information at takemefishing.org

Learn more about fishing in Ohio at wildohio.gov

Step outside:

• Through the Community Wildfire Risk Reduction grant program, the ODNR Division of Forestry recently approved grant funding for 25 projects totaling $52,106 for fire departments in rural areas of eastern and southern Ohio. The projects focus on supporting wildfire hazard mitigation, public education and firefighter training.

• The “Ohio Huntsman Podcast” interviewed Ohio’s Deer Program Administrator Mike Tonkovich about electronic deer check and more. Listen to the program and other Ohio outdoor topics at: https://ohiohuntsman.podbean.com/

• Tomorrow: 50-bird monthly trap shoot at UCOA is canceled.

• Thursday and Friday: Trap and skeet, open to the public, 5 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.

• Thursday to Sunday: 148th National Rifle Association annual meetings and exhibits, Indiana Convention Center, 100 S. Capitol Ave., Indianapolis. Visit https://www.nraam.org

• April 27: Ducks Unlimited banquet and fundraiser, 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay. For tickets and information, contact John McKain at 330-413-5582 or email hancockcountydu@gmail.com

• June 8 to 9: Become a hunter education instructor, Division of Wildlife, 952 Lima Ave., Findlay. Training is free but a background check is required prior to the academy. Submit your registration at least two weeks in advance. For questions, contact Jaron Beck at 419-429-8324.

Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay.

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