This is an open letter.

It's addressed to one young man in particular. But I'm sure there are many others just like him.

On Saturday, I took my son fishing. At nearly 3 years old, he's been through the process before. We stroll to the water's edge and in the 30 seconds or so it takes me to put some bait on the hook, the lil' guy darts toward the first thing that catches his eye.

In other words, I didn't have high hopes that we'd bring a stringer of trout home to momma. But thanks to one young man, my son took home a smile any dad would be proud of.

We'd been at a fishy-looking hole just above a small waterfall for less than five minutes when a family of three strolled up the path. Since I was spending more time chasing a toddler than catching trout, I invited them to share our hole.

It was a good move. My son got a lesson in what it means to be a true sportsman. After just a few casts, the family's young, blond-headed son (about 9 years old) hooked a well-shouldered rainbow. But instead of cranking it to the shore and holding it up to brag, he did something that would be hard for even the most modest of adults. He handed the rod to my son.

"Here," he said. "I need some help reeling it in."

My son put his hand on the reel and went after that fish with the fierceness of a cat chasing a mouse. It was serious business -- that first fish.

On the drive home, I saw a transformation.

"Look at that water," he chirped from the back seat. "Fish in there?"

The trout had hooked the boy.

The great thing is, I'm not the only one with this sort of tale. Earlier that morning, I had the chance to watch the action on a stretch of stream that adults aren't allowed to fish on the opening day of trout seasons. Only kids can test their luck in this creek.

It was a sight for jaded eyes. There were as many adults lining the banks of the stream as there were kids. The parents could've taken their children to one of dozens of other streams where everybody could make a cast. But instead, they sacrificed. They went to this kids-only zone. They gave up their own shot at a lunker to help a youngster catch one of his or her own.

Over the next few weeks, we're all likely to see pictures of big fish and we'll all hear the "heroic" tales of the one that didn't make it to the net. But the true heroes are the ones that thought of others first. They're the ones that handed the rod to somebody else.

I met one of those heroes along a creek last week. And I hope my son grows up to be just like him. A true sportsman.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@york