Beneath the waters swim the bass, bream and a few turtles. Bright green grass rushes to the water’s edge to meet the lake. The manicured sod becomes the boundary between water and land. The clear water reveals the lake bottom and some of the aquatic residents dwelling there.
On the shore stands a tall, slim man and his two companions. This afternoon trek to the lake the trio will attempt their fishing skills for bass. But time spent is more about being together and enjoying the outdoors than catching a bunch of fish.
Bradley Rogers of Talladega and his daughters, Jo Ellen, 6, and Mimi, 5, often find themselves fishing together around the lake. Bradley is the food service manager at Shocco Springs with access to the spring-fed lake. And his girls like nothing better than tag along with their dad.
“I want to teach them to enjoy God’s creation and for them to see the beauty in everything,” said Bradley.
Their fishing excursions are not just every now and then. This group heads out a few times a week. They usually will fish for a couple hours an outing. A majority of the time they will fish from a kayak with dad holding a daughter in his lap. Other times the whole family is on the lake fishing together.
“Usually my wife, Meg, will take one girl with her and I’ll have the other,” said Bradley. “It is a little easier fishing from the kayaks.”
Bradley grew up in the Chesapeake Bay area around Maryland and Virginia. His grandfather taught him and his brother how fish and hunt. It was difficult to pin Bradley down on which type of fishing he prefers, salt or freshwater. He said he enjoys both.
Around 1988 Bradley’s step-dad was stationed at Ft. McClellan. Bradley liked living in the South, and it was his best friend who introduced him to his wife. Bradley said he married a Southern woman and stayed.
“This lake right here is by far my favorite fishing lake,” Bradley said, referring to Shocco Lake. “During the spring when the bass start to bed they are non-stop.”
Jo Ellen and Mimi have their own fishing gear. Pink rod and reel combos are just the right size for these girls to catch fish. Each girl can cast and retrieve lures by themselves. Jo Ellen sometimes will reel in a fish or two for her dad.
These young anglers are a little shy around outdoor reporters, but their eyes began to sparkle and widen when I asked them about fishing. Mimi was a little reluctant about sharing any of her fishing secrets. When asked a question her eyes turned toward the water. Mimi was telling me, behind her eyes and bashful grin, the answer is in the lake.
Jo Ellen listened intently as I turned to ask her about fishing. Her eyes lighting up when it was her turn to offer an answer.
“I like casting out my rod,” Jo Ellen said. “I can cast it out pretty far.”
Artificial lures are the favorite among the Rogers fishing household. Bradley prefers a topwater popper for his choice. The girls each opt for a pearl white fluke. A few weeks back Mimi caught her first fish solo. Then a few days later reeled in another by herself. Of course, dad was close by just in case she needed a hand.
Bradley says most of the time it is the girls that ask him to take them fishing. He doesn’t have to nudge them. The young anglers will grab up their pink rods and head to the truck. All love being outdoors.
“Jo Ellen likes to hike. Sometimes we will walk in the woods around the camp,” Bradley said. “Mimi likes critters, bugs and worms.”
Usually once a year Bradley’s job will send him off to San Destin, Fla. for a food show. But, during the early morning hours he and the girls are on the beach, fishing in the surf. They will use spoons and other artificial baits to catch lady fish and blue fish.
Dads fishing with sons make for special times. But, I think a dad fishing with daughters is even more special. The times spent on the lake with fishing rod in hand are something Jo Ellen and Mimi will never forget. And neither will their dad.
Fishing has a way of creating bonds. Maybe only other anglers can understand that bond. It is the gift of the outdoors each member of this family share. It is not always about catching a bunch of fish but, rather enjoying the fellowship each person has to offer. It is a time to share thoughts, feelings and aspirations, each giving of themselves.
I watched as these girls eagerly step to the edge of the lake. Jo Ellen makes the first cast and Mimi follows. Only Mimi’s cast is a little off course, missing the water and landing near her sister. Bradley guides Mimi’s line while she reels in the slack. The second attempt find the lure headed out into the lake. Dad glances over at each girl, his smile as wide as the sky.
As I kneel down at the water’s edge to snap a photo our reflections are upon the water. I don’t see a balding, fat guy holding a camera. Instead I see a kid again, grasping an old fishing pole happy to be outdoors with friends – just fishing.
Dads take your kids fishing, and kids take your dad fishing, for it is a gift we can all share.
Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at ChrJohn7@aol.com