Sore volunteer muscles, sore fish lips = great kids fishing clinic

All Sunday my quads felt as tight and heavy as chunks of oak firewood.

Then again, I did about six hours of squats Saturday, going up and down, again and again, helping young anglers at The Wichita Eagle’s Kids Fishing Clinic.

A happy kid with his first-ever fish, a scene repeated scores of times at this year's Wichita Eagle's Kids Fishing Clinic

We had about 315 kids show up to try their luck at Island Pond, at Chisholm Creek Park. This was the 11th year our kids clinic was part of the Great Plains Nature Center’s annual Walk with Wildlife.

All went pretty danged well.

It looked like more than half of the kids were hoping to catch their first fish. Most seemed to succeed.

Jessica Mounts, a biologist with Wildlife and Parks, and her crew again had the pond well-stocked and the equipment well-supplied and ready to go. Her staff did everything from coach kids to bait hooks with enough worms to feed an army of robins.

Cabela’s furnished a myriad of gifts for the kids. Neal Hall and the rest of the Flatland Fly Fishers Club provided very important labor.

As always, though, the kids were the stars of the show.

Laughter and screams of delight, and sometimes surprise and a little fear, were constants.

My favorites included a boy of about five who pulled a fish ashore, then trotted through the crowd, slapping hands like a pro ball player after hitting one over the fence.

And there was the poor kid who stumbled backwards when his fish came ashore, tripped and smacked his head. He was in obvious pain and embarrassed. For several minutes, he wanted nothing to do with anything — especially his green sunfish.

But to his credit, he listened as we talked about the fish and worked his way out of his crying and frustration. I eventually got him to feel the softness of the fish’s tail. Within seconds he was posing for a picture, holding the fish.

After 15 or so minutes of catching nothing on their own, I began working with a young brother and sister. After switching spots, it wasn’t more than a minute when his bobber sank like it was made of concrete. After a bit of tug-of-war he slid, bumped and bounced a nice bass ashore.

Time was running out in their angling session when his sister finally got a bite. It, too, was a sizable bass and it, too, ended up in and out of the water, flopping and splashing as the excited child waved the long pole around wildly.

Amid it all, the tip pulled free from the telescopic pole, the fish splashed into the water and I splashed in after it. A long reach and I grabbed the tail end of the rod as it headed mid-pond.

The bass and I made it to shore, where the ecstatic girl posed for a picture with her first fish.

Like her brother, she left jabbering about going fishing again as their family promised they most certainly would take them.

Sights and sounds like that are more than worth a few sore muscles, sun burn and muddy pants from wading in the pond.

I’m already looking forward to next year.