Touched by scene of man and grandson fishing together, angler presents teen with rod and reel


Fourteen-year-old Lucas Harris is just learning to fish, which may be why he hooked — but wasn’t able to land — a large striped bass on a fishing trip with his grandfather last weekend in Nova Scotia.

Although fishermen love to tell tales of the one that got away, that’s not the story Harris and his grandfather, David Smith, are telling others about the remarkable Saturday afternoon they spent on the shores of the Stewiacke River.

The story they’re recounting is about how a stranger named Matt Dort turned a good day fishing into a great fishing day for them by gifting the budding angler with a fishing rod, reel and bass lure.

“It shocked the snappers out of me,” said Smith, recalling how he felt when Dort, a licensed fishing guide, handed the equipment to his grandson after striking up a conversation.

Harris remembered it as a moment of disbelief.

“I was like, this is a joke. Like, this isn’t real. And I was really excited,” said the Truro teen.

David Smith and his grandson, Lucas Harris, seen together in 2019. The two were fishing on the Stewiake River recently when another angler approached and offered Lucas a better rod and reel. (Submitted by David Smith)

‘You could tell he had hopes of catching one’

Dort wanted the boy to have his used equipment because he didn’t think Harris’s Pocket Fisherman — a compact rod and reel — would be able to withstand a strike by the fish in the area at the time.

“There was striped bass showing everywhere, jumping, spawning,” recalled Dort. “The boy was excited. He could see the fish and you could tell he had hopes of catching one.”

That’s when Dort decided to go to his vehicle to fetch a spare rod and reel.

“I tied the lure on, put the rod together and just took it back down to the riverbank,” he said.

“I said, ‘Lucas, I just want to give you this rod. It’ll help you have a more enjoyable experience and be able to catch one, if you were able to cast a bit further. And if you catch one, you want to be able to at least hold onto it for a little bit.’ “

Lucas resisted at first, but accepted the gift when Dort insisted and his grandfather give him a nod.

“I was like, ‘Imagine how many fish you can catch with that,’ ” said Harris. “I was not expecting that at all.”

Dort said he was inspired to offer the gift because the scene of the grandfather and grandson by the river together was a moment worth treasuring.

“I thought that was the most special interaction that I’ve seen in a long time,” said Dort. 

Matt Dort holds a striped bass he caught in the Stewiacke River on June 5, 2021. (Submitted by Matt Dort)

A flashback to his childhood

It also brought back memories of Dort’s own childhood.

“It was the family connection, the experience that I have had in the past with my grandfather and my father, fishing with my twin brother,” he said. “It was something I hadn’t seen in a while. So when I saw the boy there and the grandfather sitting on the bench, he was literally a flashback to my childhood.”

Dort said he felt the gift was a way to pay it forward and further fuel Harris’s enthusiasm for fishing.

“It blew me away,” said Smith of Dort’s gift. “It really surprised me, the generosity that he showed my grandson.”

He said the new rod and reel has already “jumped up” Harris’s enthusiasm for fishing. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Harris holds the fishing rod that Matt Dort gave him on June 5, 2021. (Submitted by David Smith)

The new equipment also had the desired effect on Saturday. About 20 minutes after Dort left, Harris hooked a big fish.

“I almost got a three-foot bass, but it got off. I was struggling with it for five minutes, but it got off my line,” said Harris with a chuckle.

Dort, a human resources specialist at Sobeys head office in Stellarton, N.S., is hoping to cross paths with Harris and Smith again and maybe try to catch a few big ones together.

Outfitted with his new gear, Harris said that’s a fishing trip he’d love to take.

“That would be really cool,” he said.

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