I remember as a kid there wasn’t many things I loved more than spending time with my dad. Throwing a ball, working on the sprinklers (now that I have my own kids I think he let me interrupt his progress on the sprinklers so that mom could have a few minutes of quiet), going “running” with him, and best of all when he said it was time to go fishing and camping.
In those early years it was clear that my dad wanted to see me succeed, both in life and while fishing. The time on the water with him was a saving grace for our relationship – especially during my teenage years. As I look back on things I have come to realize that the time in the car was probably more valuable to my well being, success, and happiness in life than the time spent fishing. I can think back and remember, almost to the exact spot, where my dad gave me “The Talk” after a morning of fishing. To be honest, it was a genius play on his part – I was locked inside a moving vehicle with him… I couldn’t jump out of a car doing over 50mph and hope to survive. I look back and I can tell you where we were headed when I talked to my dad about my dating life, my hatred of college, my job prospects, and the list goes on. Those car conversations shaped me more than any of the fish I ever caught.
I bring this up for a couple reasons. First, I don’t know how many more fly fishing adventures I’ll be able to have with my dad. I hope there are dozens and dozens of fishing trips in our future. But, as we all know, tomorrow is never guaranteed. Second, I hope to bring a little perspective and remind people that it’s not always about the fish, but that the experience is really what is more important. Third, because I love my dad and he helped shape me into a what I consider a pretty decent human being.
Now on to the story. I recently got to spend another morning on a multi-hour drive with my dad. We talked about fishing, about our jobs, his kids (my siblings), his wife (my mom), my wife, my kids, finances, life goals, and so much more. It was great.
When we got to the lake it was colder than my fingers, toes, and the rest of my body preferred. A quick search that morning made me realize that I had left my normal streamer box in the diaper bag at home with my wife (#DadLife) and that I only had a few flies. My dad fortunately had a few streamers I had tied up and a box of his own stuff. I found that the box I had brought was my 5 year olds box that only had a handful of flies that he had “tied” (we used teamwork to tie them up). I tied on a small-ish white feather game changer with the hope that it would do me good.
A little time was spent during setup, some struggles getting knots tied up, some mild frostbite (just kidding it wasn’t even really that bad). An emergency potty break had me a few minutes behind my dad. By the time I had gotten in my float tube and had kicked out 50 yards to where my dad was he already had a bent rod and was fighting a fish! A decent little fight and a beautiful cutthroat trout was on its way back down into the frigid water.
A quick celebration and a few casts later he had hooked into his second fish. I was kicking over to him and working on slowly retrieving my line so that I could snap another picture for him and baaam! my line went tight! I had that fish on for about 15 seconds and it came un-buttoned. A little grumbling later and giving my dad grief for “being such a better fisherman” than I am we took a quick picture and released another fish.
Fifteen or twenty minutes after his fish I did land a beautiful cutthroat on the feathered changer. That felt good. I love it when a plan comes together and I catch a fish on a fly that I tied up. I missed another couple fish (I think they were nipping the tail and I failed to respond aggressively with how I was retrieving the fly). I decided to switch to a fly that my 5 year old son had “tied”.
I kicked around and thought there should be a fish near a drop off I found. I kicked into position, stripped out some line, then cast as far as I could from my seated position in the float tube. Wait, wait, strip, strip, strip, bam, swing and a miss!! So close! Another cast out, wait, wait, strip strip, strip, strip, BAM! This time the line went tight and the fight was on! This fish spun me around in a circle before I was able to get the fish to the net! Landed a beautiful cutthroat that was 20ish inches (too cold to get an exact measurement and risk serious damage to the fish). My little boys fly had caught a glorious fish.
Strangely enough I had cell phone service and I placed a quick call to my son and he left me with this glorious line, “Are you sure that grandpa didn’t catch that fish?” He had me and my dad laughing out loud. This was the moment that tied everything together. A moment that tied grandpa, son, and grandson all together in a special fishy bond. A few days later my son was on the phone with grandpa and the comment was made that my son wanted to tie up some flies for grandpa. Only way to make these moments better is to have my son be on the catching end of the story.
These are the moments that really matter.
Get outside, enjoy the beauties of nature, don’t forget to look up from the water and be a witness to the majestic beauty around us, and then share these moments/stories with those that matter in your life.
Tight lines and wet nets, amigos.
a Proud Lucky Son and Father.