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Sometimes a father has to go fishing to connect with his kid

Sun., June 20, 2010, midnight

Just a few weeks ago, Douglas Wood had fairly low odds for having much to celebrate on Fathers Day.

“For seven years, I have been married to a wonderful woman,” the Spokane man said in an e-mail, adding that the responsibility for a stepson came with the package.

“Coty and I had a rocky relationship at best,” he said. “We were at odds on most things and never seemed to connect.”

An antidote for a sour relationship had not eluded Wood. He simply needed time to figure out how to administer it.

“We had been fishing together in the past, but seldom went home with any fish,” Wood said. “I think that was mostly my fault, since I seldom fished for easy fish.”

Sunfish and small bass didn’t appeal to him, he said.

“I was being selfish – thinking only of catching the big fish to make me happy and show the kids how it was done.”

This spring, Wood saw the light.

“Kid’s don’t care how big the fish are,” he said, revealing the key he discovered.

“To them, all fish are big. They are so easy to please. All you have to do to keep kids happy is get a fish on the end of their line.

“Any fish.

“Just keep them busy.”

Gratitude, trust and respect come naturally if you lay a little groundwork, which appears to be what Wood did by giving Coty a chance to catch little fish.

That set the stage for a moment that changed their relationship.

The family went out for an afternoon of fishing recently at Newman Lake.“In a borrowed canoe, Coty and I set out to catch something, anything,” Wood said.

Coty, 12, was in the front, paddling at first, but then devoting his attention to catching fish.

“The wind was taking me too close to shore, then too far away. I got more and more frustrated, but kept it to myself,” Wood said. “This trip was not about me catching a fish. It was for Coty. So I cast my line out the back of the canoe and trolled as I paddled.”

They’d paddled around the entire lake without a bite and were slowly moving back toward the launch area when Wood’s rod bent sharply to the water as though he’d snagged a submarine.

The fishing trip focused on catching perch and sunfish was interrupted by a tiger musky more than 3 feet long.

“I was not prepared to handle a fish of this size,” he said, “but luckily we were within 100 yards of the boat launch where my wife and younger son were waiting.

“I let Coty take the pole and fight the fish while I paddled back to the ramp.”

They admired the size and beauty – and the rack of teeth – of the enormous fish and measured it at 37 inches before releasing it.

Tiger muskies, a sterile hybrid derived in hatcheries from crossing northern pike and muskellunge, must be at least 50 inches to be kept in Washington.

Coty was smitten with the fish. “He vowed to catch one himself this summer,” Wood said.

“I tried to tell him, it’s not that common to catch these fish. People call the musky a fish of 10,000 casts.”

But Coty appears to be hooked.

“No longer do we argue over chores, or what he wants for dinner. He does his chores for the chance to go fishing. We no longer argue. Even better, we do not avoid each other.”

Wood calls the musky a fish “sent by God.”

“We plan upcoming trips as though they’re major events,” he said, joining the ranks of dads didn’t wait around hoping for a miracle on Fathers Day.

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