The First Rainbow
by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)
Who can forget their first rainbow trout?
Yes, I am a preacher, but this is not an article about Noah, the Flood, and the rainbow God set in the sky. Instead, it’s a brief article about how older anglers can introduce youngsters to fishing. In the process, we can help secure the future of a great pastime and encourage our boys and girls to get outdoors. Small actions today can have a big impact tomorrow.
I was quite young, no more than 5 or 6 years old because we were still living in our little two-bedroom house on West Thorain. My parents decided to take my sister, Marilyn, and me to the annual Sport & Boat Show in downtown San Antonio for some inexpensive entertainment.
The convention hall, I remember, was filled with boats and motors, all sizes and kinds. But the part of the show that interested me most was the rainbow trout tank. I remember that a rectangular plastic “pond” was filled with stocker ‘bows and people were fishing all around the edges with these little rods.
“Mama, Daddy, can I try? Can I? Do we have enough money? I brought my quarter!” Mom and Dad looked at one another, and I was thrilled to see the “yes” in their eyes.
So I bought my ticket, grabbed a rod, and started fishing as hard as I could. The fish were right there. Why couldn’t I catch anything? The frustration rose in my throat and filled my eyes with tears.
And then a magical thing happened. One of the men who ran the exhibit saw me, felt my hurt, watched as I tried again and again . . . and decided to do something about it. I saw him wink at my dad. What did that wink mean? He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Son, try this rod. We’ve had good luck with it today.” Looking back on it, I’m sure it had a worm, or corn, or some kind of bait besides the little artificial flies everyone else had on their rods.
I dipped the line in the water and . . . WHAM! . . . I couldn’t believe it! A rainbow trout struck hard, and I held on. I’m sure the rainbow was three feet long—well, that’s how I remember it. I landed that fish, and the man even cleaned it for me, put it in a bag of ice, and we took it home. I remember that Mama cooked it for me as soon as she could fire up the stove. No fish ever tasted sweeter or was better remembered.
In my mind I can still see that first rainbow, hear the man’s gentleness, feel that tug, thrill to the splash of water. I remember the kindness of my parents who allowed the opportunity in the first place, even when money was tight. I’m 58 years old today, and that experience has stayed with me for more than five decades. Mom and Dad are gone, but the memory remains.
Can anyone guess what my favorite fish is to this day, even though I still live in San Antonio, Texas? I’ve never fished for wild trout, though I’d love to do that some day. But each winter I tenkara and keiryu fish for stocker rainbows in the area rivers, and the excitement has never left. I can’t explain the wonder I feel when a rainbow strikes. It stirs emotions inside me that words can’t tell. I’m that little boy again.
I don’t think that wonderful man at the trout tank told us his name. Frankly, I can’t remember exactly how he looked. But I do remember what he did, and I hope I can have the same impact on a young person’s life. I know that Chris Stewart offers some wonderful starter rods and kits just made for children. It’s hard for me to imagine a better gift. There’s so much that’s unwholesome and unhealthy in this world. Shouldn’t we try to replace a little of the bad with the good and be a spark for someone?
Who knows, you just might change a five-year-old’s life.