Childhood lessons found hopping in tall grass

John Liechty

The activities I did as a child seem like they happened a lifetime ago. But, after having children of my own and becoming a dad, the feelings seem more like they took place yesterday. Lately, I have found myself reliving my childhood, only this time trapped in the body of an almost 40-year-old man, and I love it.

Obviously, I’m not as agile as I once was, but my spirit is as young as ever. The little things that once intrigued me are still as great as they once were. And the act of catching has always been in my blood, as it is in most of the youths that are raised in this wonderful area close to the outdoors.

It is not always fish, crawdads or frogs, as I have written about in previous articles. But sometimes it’s the smallest and simplest things, such as insects, that can be entertaining to capture. And the act of trying to catch is almost more fun than the capture itself.

Just recently, I was at the nearby lake with my wife, newborn son and daughter when suddenly, we noticed a plethora of grasshoppers fleeing as we walked through the grass. I’m sure for many it would have sufficed to teach the young ones that those are grasshoppers flying and landing. But for me, I took the opportunity as a chance to show my daughter how to catch them and to give her an up-close chance to see what they look like. It was time to revert to my childhood and take chase.

A simple crouch-and-pounce method will work, but is far less efficient than a technique that we used as children. Removing my hat, I began to kick up these flying insects. Knowing that they can only fly in small bursts, I began to follow them until they landed. At this point it was time to fire my ballcap at them in hopes to disorient them among the grass and dirt. This technique is designed to stun them and not hurt or kill them because live bait works much better for fishing applications.

Childhood lessons found hopping in tall grass

John Liechty and his daughter look at a grasshopper he caught. 

After a few minutes of looking rather ridiculous with my hat in one hand and running around in circles, I fired a shot that disrupted one’s flight of escape long enough for me to pounce. With a handful of dirt and dried pine needles, I sifted out a spring-legged little flyer.

With my daughter standing close and elated by her dada’s involvement in the obscure but awesome activities, we found success and had caught a hopper. She has seen these creatures in books and on TV, but has no concept of size or behavior. An insect that controlled the ants in the movie “A Bug’s Life” was now in the grasp of her father’s hands.

We took a moment to examine this interesting little specimen and then did what we both wanted to do, that is, release it back to its natural environment unharmed.

In this moment, I realized that you are never too old to act like a kid. There aren’t any apps on your phone that will teach a child these simple lessons in life. Immersing yourself in the surroundings and being a part of nature without having a detrimental effect is the key to coexistence in the outdoors.

John Liechty is the owner of Xperience Fishing Guide Service in Angels Camp. Contact John at 743-9932.

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