One of my favorite places when I was little was the boathouse of my family’s old cottage in Ontario’s Thousand Islands. My parents, siblings, and I vacationed there every summer, surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. The boathouse was the kids’ domain. We’d hang out in the huge room upstairs, overlooking the river, reading, listening to music, playing games. There was no TV anywhere—not even in the main cottage up on the hill.
Going to the Islands, as we called it, was about getting away from the hustle and bustle. Life slowed down to a crawl, and we enjoyed doing things we never found time for back home—like rowing a boat, fishing, daydreaming, exploring, or maybe just sitting under a tree and feeling the breeze tickle our faces.
I remember fishing in the boathouse for little sunfish and perch and listening to the lapping water and clunk-dunk sounds of the river. Because we were under a roof, we could see the fish clearly in the green water. We dropped our fishing line in the water and the fish darted away. We waited. Slowly a fish or two would venture out of their hiding places, take a nibble, and right before our eyes, they’d somehow manage to eat the worm without getting hooked.
Fishing was easy, but catching was hard, we discovered. It didn’t matter, though. These little fish were like pets, and watching them swim languidly in the water was a relaxing way to enjoy an afternoon.
I’ll never forget the smell of the boathouse. It smelled fishy, of course. My brothers were better at catching fish than I was, and they cleaned the big bass they caught on the wooden table, spraying scales everywhere. The boathouse also smelled of motor oil and fuel, sharp tangy scents that mingled with the musty, old-attic smell of dust and wood. Swirling through it all was the sweet scent of the St. Lawrence River, a fresh smell redolent of pine trees, frogs, and cattails.
Our cover story this month celebrates kids and fishing and reminds us that the simplest pleasures are often the most memorable. Plan a fishing outing with your child. Bring poles, worms, tackle, a cooler, a picnic, some drinks—but leave your cell phone at home. Take time to enjoy the sights and smells and sounds of nature with your child. Maybe you’ll catch a fish, maybe you won’t. But the memories you create will last forever.