Friday, August 22

Private Water, The Problem with People, Too Much Beer, and a Heavy Heart

Private water...I can hear the mismatched and conflicting gears in my head turn at the mere thought.  I was recently granted permission to fish a 3 mile stretch of private water...water that hasn't been fished in 20 years.  Water that holds the promise of fish that have never seen a fly, much less a person...or a worm with a hook through it.  I'm torn.  I'm torn because I don't believe in private water...YET...I asked for permission to fish this water...however... I don't believe that a river can belong to one person or organization, so I shouldn't NEED permission.  I'm torn because I'm excited about fishing it.  In fact, I can't wait.  It was only last year when I heard myself utter these words:  "I am philosophically opposed to private water."  (I think I stole that from John Gierach though).  It was in response to a question posed by a friend whilst trespassing on newly purchased property.  Property that we used to be able to walk through to get to our spot. Our spot.  The question he asked was:  "how much would you pay to fish here?"  An innocent enough question I suppose.  But I'm sure he could hear the venom in my response.  "PAY TO FISH HERE?  This is practically my spot already!"  And there it is...ownership.  We all want it, we all have those secret urges.  (mine aren't so secret). If I could afford to purchase a section of a trout river and legally keep people out, would I?  Probably.  Why?  I don't trust my species.  I don't trust them to appreciate, understand, and conserve what is beautiful and worth conserving.

I am opposed to private watershed ownership, yet, my deep love of trout somehow reconciles that it may be necessary. To steal and paraphrase Harry Middleton:  the fact that we have to protect our natural resources is both sad, devastating in fact, and understandable.  Not only do these "private" places or "national parks" give us a glimpse of what once was, but more ominously, a sense of what could have been.  What could have been if we would have changed our course.  What could have been if we didn't have to fence off sections of wilderness, nature, so as not to be disturbed, not to be destroyed and sacrificed for the newest strip mall, walmart, coffee shop, or mining operation.

Why is private ownership necessary?  Well, I still don't know that is is, but what I do know is that it is amazing how many beer cans you can find in places that I consider hard to get to.  It's amazing how many favorite spots I've had that have been sacrificed in the name of progress.  (It happened again today.  Not entirely, but it's a start:  in the form of a "Logging" sign recently tacked to a tree  a few hundred yards from my put in.)  It is amazing how many rivers and their unwitting inhabitants have been destroyed by "safe" mining operations that didn't quite deliver on that promise.  By dams gone awry.  A few years back, 30 minutes from my home, more than 500,000 trout were killed due to negligence...neglect...of a dam that shouldn't have been there in the first place.

But here I sit with my conflicting views.  My conflicting views, trying to reconcile private waters, the nature of people, and writing about trout.  Writing about trout and other collateral damage when over 1.1 million children in the U.S. are homeless.  Read that again.  That's 1.1 million HOMELESS CHILDREN in our "great nation."  But I write about trout...conserving and protecting a fish I hold near and dear, and hope that I/we can help.  I write about trout, and at the same time, 16 million kids go hungry...16 million, in the U.S. Where do we go from here?  I don't know, but what I do know is that it's not the direction that we're headed.  It is not this direction.  But I write about trout.  I am conflicted.  But I write...I write about trout.

Wednesday, August 20

Long Lost Friend

     There aren't many places like it.  My safe haven.  You could spend the rest of your life getting to know it, getting lost in it, becoming consumed. Away from crowds of people, tourist attractions, forced small talk, and meaningless conversations, a literal breath of fresh air.

      Time seems to stop there, it ceases to mean anything, loses its power.  A clock is of little value.  It's as if it isn't counted against me, like I'm not getting older, instead I'm given a child like sense of wonder, given new eyes with which to see the world.  I guess the best way to say it is that the time I'm spending is free.  Maybe spending isn't the right word...I'm utilizing time.  It's far from perceptible, yet as recognizable as your own bed.  It is a cosmic connection.

As I sit at my fly tying desk and write this I can feel my blood coursing with anticipation. Anticipation. The trip is soon.  It's always bitter sweet,  the ending of summer, but it can't get here soon enough because with it brings the annual trek to the end of the world.  I would be almost hesitant to live there, too afraid that it may lose its charm.  But I don't think that's quite possible.

     I'm not 100% sure why the U.P. is so special to me, or why I hold it so close.  I've been going since I was a kid...maybe 12 or 13, fishing and getting to know my dad and getting to know myself. Myself.  Dads are different in the U.P.  Maybe that was part of the attraction.  Free from the confines of social norms and societal  influence, a kid has a chance to find out who he is and where he fits in the adult world.  No longer was I shielded from the stories my dad would tell his buddies, for I was an equal.  The curbed language more normal for a kid my age stopped at the bridge, and it was a new and exciting world.  I drove a car for the first time up there, had my first beer, stole my first taste of Jim Beam and then a few more, went to my first truly redneck party,oh, and I caught some amazing fish up there too.

Every year the spots changed a little, a few were added, a few taken away, and a few have remained constant. Constant. Some river systems have been abandoned entirely, too many people found out... roads where there used to be squirrel trails, trails where there used to be long walks through the deep woods with a compass.  Forests logged and turned unrecognizable, houses erected on the bank of the river, infringing on what was once wild and unmolested.  That's the nature of the beast I guess.  I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it, but for the most part I struggle to not be upset with the prospect that maybe time really does exist up there.  It must. If not, why do I wonder whether or not my son or daughter will experience those same spots, or if we'll be on to a new location?  Perhaps we're to blame...maybe no one...probably everyone. Everyone. Maybe blame is a poor word, and eventually I will have to resign to the fact that there aren't many untouched wildernesses left, and maybe the idea only ever really existed within me.  After all, if I really am the first to fish an "untouched" ceases to be "untouched" ceases to be what I loved...because of my doing.

Everyone deserves an escape, to have a place that is held so close you can feel its pulse, hear its breath, and exist not only within it, but as a part of it. Part of it.  It's sad to me that so many people grow up without even so much as a chance to experience their own version, but maybe it's sad to them that I don't have a coffee shop, book store, restaurants, or bars, within walking distance.

I spend at least 2 weeks in preparation.  Plans are carefully laid, no detail overlooked.  Never are my fly boxes more organized or line cleaner. Never is my mind so focused, content, and at peace. The process of preparing itself is something I look forward to with almost as much vigor as the trip. It is a is sacred.

Mostly, I will go prepared to relish in what can only be described as where I belong.  Relish in the feeling that I'm no longer trying to go somewhere, but that I have arrived. Arrived. Relish in the rivers, the trout, the camping, the adventure...but mostly, say hi to myself again, it's damned good to see you...the real you.  The real you.

Chase contentment, chase trout


Monday, August 18

Withdrawals and A Lesson in Hypocrisy

        I think I'm getting the shakes.  I haven't been fishing in at least 7 days...or has it been 8?  I decided to take a hiatus after over doing it for so long during the hex this year.  6 or 7 nights a week for that long can really take it's tole, but I think I'm finally recovered.  I anxiously await this time of year and now that it's here there is no excuse not to get out there...the winter tying sessions will be here soon enough.  I've been making excuses.  Well, getting a vasectomy is a legitimate excuse, but an excuse none the less.  The lawn needs mowed, the kids got a play set that needs to be set up, revived, and painted, the shed needed to be cleaned and organized, garage in disarray, fly tying bench is a nightmare, family needs to be visited, weddings attended, nighttime temps too low....anndd  CUT.

       I feel better already.  Most of that stuff is already done and the things I haven't listed aren't that important anyhow.  The lawn still needs attention, it's been a few weeks, but I'll leave work here shortly and get that taken care of.  Or not.  Either way, tomorrow night I'll get my fix (maybe head out tonight too). Going to hit a local trout lake in the early evening then off to throw some rodents.  

      Anyone else have a separate email folder dedicated to fly fishing?  Or maybe your whole email is.  Maybe you're one of the lucky ones that doesn't have to have an email!  My problem is I do a lot of my work through email, but I spend most of my time  in the fly fishing folder.  Blogs i follow, Allen's "deal of the week", Orvis's 10 emails a day, Kelly Galloup stuff, all of the local fly shops and some not so local, destination fishing trips, Feather Craft and J. Stockard deals, fly fisherman magazine telling me i need to re-up (I dont think I will).  I can only read the same article so many times.  I went through my phase with them though.  Tying every "hot new pattern" they threw my way,  planning trips to fish with April Vokey and moving to British Columbia.  Dreaming about Argentinian brown trout.  Learning the top 10 tricks most fly fisherman don't know, for Christ's sake it's like Cosmo for anglers.

      I guess I finally learned that I would rather read things like Fontinalis Rising, Michigan Fly, Living Fly Legacy, the Fiberglass Manifesto, Moldy Chum, Gink and Gasoline, Kype, Fly Fish Food, and a ton of other amazingly written REAL LIFE STUFF that I haven't listed including several saltwater blogs. They don't bombard me with the latest and greatest line nippers priced to sell at $50, or wading boots that will "put me in front of more fish." It's like the difference between shopping at a Bass Pro Shop or your local fly shop. They both have their place I suppose, but the fly shop wins every time.

        I get sucked in though...I love the NEW stuff just as much as the next guy, but eventually I start to lose sight of what I'm trying to accomplish here.  The more I get bogged down with having the newest most fashionable chest pack, the more I'm going the way of the rest of the world, which is contrary to the reason I fly fish in the first lose myself and find myself in nothingness, oneness, quite contemplation and reflection, excitement, disappointment, relief, and countless other emotions. If you think about it, fly fishing is a way to practice feeling the emotions of the real world on a scale that really doesn't matter. Although...nothing reaaallyy matters, does it (I don't want to go down that rabbit hole).  But, one of the intrinsic traits of fly fishing is that it allows me to take a step back from everything I don't like about society, and I can't help but see the hypocrisy of that goal and obsessing over the newest fishing widget.

I think what I'm saying is...I'm a hypocrite.  I'm on both sides of this fence. Sometimes I feel bad about it, most of the time I don't. I try to balance the compulsion for more and newer with the real reasons that i fish, and sometimes they don't exactly match up, but that's OK.

Yep, I want to read about Sage's newest advancements in "Konnetic Technology", but God damn it I don't need to do it every single day, and with every turn of the magazine's pages.

Sometimes, I like to grab my 7 ft 5 wt eagle claw glass rod that cost exactly $19.99 and fish it like it owes me money. There.  I said it.  I have a nice expensive rod or two, and I love them.  They're light weight and make me feel like I can cast across the straits of Mackinaw, but I can count on 1 hand the amount of fish I've caught with a 70 foot cast...none...probably because I can't cast that far, but you get the point.  It drives me bat shit crazy that a $600 rod is now considered a "mid-ranged" rod price.  BUT, I had to have one, and it's a sweetheart. I also like to throw on my neoprene waders (especially this summer because it's been so cold at night) but I always feel a little odd, like I stand out in the crowd and maybe I should have worn my name brand pair with the latest and greatest seamless weld technology with the waterproof pockets, and adjustable upper section from chest to waist highs.

That new Fishpond pack is just so sexy though, and it holds so much stuff!  Maybe I could catch more fish if I had it...

Tuesday, August 12

Night Blindness and Sasquatch Sightings

         There’s something subtly special about driving home down an empty road at 2 in the morning (even more special if I have a cigarette hanging out the window, but the hex is done so my smoking is too). The first part of the drive involves no houses, no streetlights, the only sign of life is me and the occasional deer, low flying owl, or porcupine lumbering across the road. It is freedom at its finest. I find myself overcome by a feeling of superiority at times like that.  It's hard not to.  The feeling that I have life figured out. Like I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world, western rivers be damned. I think that feeling is what I’m really chasing when I fish and the reason I continue to do it. When most other people at that hour are terrified of passing cops, silently recounting how many drinks they've had, I smile at the thought of explaining why I'm out this late, proving that not all things that happen after 2 am are mischievous. Well, maybe they are. I like to drive slowly through my neighborhood. I enjoy the sight of my seemingly lifeless house as the headlights wash over it and the idea that everyone is comfortably sleeping inside. I’m always greeted by the dog, but he has long since given up barking and lumbers out of the bedroom, eyes barely open, acknowledges me and my stupidity, then drags himself back to his warm bed. I always spend at least 30 minutes unwinding, recapping the night. If I've lost a nice fish it’s more like an hour maybe more. If not much has happened I watch the DVR’d Daily Show and if I can stay awake, the Colbert Report. Sometimes my wife manages to wake up long enough to ask how the fishing was and falls back asleep during the answer. I appreciate the gesture, it doesn't go unnoticed.

      Night fishing in Michigan. Sometimes I like to fancy myself as the hardcore elite, one of the dedicated few who soldiers out at night to chase big browns. Since I don’t have direct access to a drift boat I give myself even more points for being a dyed-in-the wool extremist. Actually though, night fishing suits me perfectly. The kids are in bed by about 7:30, leaving the rest of the night open for anything, assuming my wife hasn't made other plans.

      Mousing is of course different than chasing hatches in a lot of ways, but for me the biggest difference is urgency. I no longer feel like I have to be on the water 3 hours before dark with my spot staked out, ready to defend it. No longer feel the need to painstakingly analyze where the most likely rise will happen, where the most fish are holding, and where the least people will be. It is truly easy going. Packing up the jeep to head out only takes a few minutes and normally only entails grabbing my waders and boots that were hanging out to dry. Since the desperation isn't there, I often times don’t
even leave until just before dark, getting a good hour or two in with my wife so she doesn't entirely forget who I am. I like to mouse with another person, but enjoy having the river to myself as well. Arriving at the river,  I take the time to survey the water, often catching the tail end of a decent amount of sulphurs, whiteflies, or any other number of unexpected hatches, but normally they don’t amount to much. On occasion, I have to furiously re-rig to cast at a nice riser before the setting sun takes the bugs with it. I used to use 3x to 5x tippet when mousing...I’m not really sure why, I guess I didn’t know any better. Thankfully, I don’t use much less than 0x anymore, sometimes forsaking even that for something bigger and stiffer. Also gone are the days when I used real mice. Ornately tied spun deer hair creations with eyes, 4 feet, 20 toes, whiskers, 2 folded ears and tapered tail...the whole nine yards. I really went all out. I still occasionally tie one on, but mostly it’s some rabbit zonker foam creation with too many legs...and not enough heart.


        If I’m fishing with someone else, I always prefer to let them go first. I like to watch other people’s techniques, and would rather give them first chance at fish. There are so many different ways to mouse that I don’t think there is a prevailing method anymore, or maybe never was.  Swinging, dead drift, swinging with occasional plops, or just plopping it all the way back in. Everyone has their preference, and I suppose they all work best at different times. I change my approach quite often, and if I happen to hook a fish on one method, probably purely by chance, I keep that method for waaay too long afterwards.

     It’s also worth noting the way in which people will re-tie or re-rig. I fish with one person who doesn't use a light, even to re-tie. All of my attempts at such masterdom have fallen way short. Other people have no problem shining their light all over the god damned river, like the fish are blind deaf and dumb, inducing night blindness on anyone within a half mile. Others will sneak off near the bank, and, shielding the rest of the river from their disruption, quietly tie on with the utmost care, trying to use the red light on their lamps which supposedly is less likely to spook the fish. I subscribe to the latter, but have seen people catch fish after destroying the good lies with their light pollution...who the hell knows.

    There is also a difference of opinion when it comes to how much river to fish. One night time companion generally fishes a shorter stretch of river, spending the time and truly fishing each spot with the patience of a thousand monks. Others use the blanket approach with the goal being to cover as much water as possible, more reminiscent of floating. Sometimes the spot is famously hard to get to, other times I’m parked feet away from the river. That’s part of the beauty of night fishing...even the most practiced day time angler doesn't have access to the fish an amateur does at night in Michigan. The scale has evened and hacks like me get a chance at a few big ones as long as we’re willing to pay our dues, which can include but are not limited to:

broken rods, taking a swim (some more than others), ripped waders, ruined smartphones, lost hemos, dropped fly boxes, catching mice and streamers with your face, deciding how to take a bat off of your hook, torn up arms, the occasional dead flashlight or headlamp immediately inducing panic, bad compass routes and long roundabout walks back to the jeep, dead car batteries and no cell signal, warm beer, and a hell of a good time that most will never experience.

     There are a few demons that I have to overcome more often than I’d like to admit. It’s strange how similar a raccoon can sound to what I would imagine an impending alien abduction sounds like. For me, I have to manage fears. That includes fears of things I know bears, cougars, pissed off elk, AND things that probably don’t big foot, river monsters, someone waiting for me to get around the next bend so they can rape me, and alien abductions (not that I don’t believe in aliens, but maybe not so much the abduction part.)  I've seen and heard some strange things night fishing...a time when I should be in bed.  What I swear were muskrat fornicating on the bank, what I can only assume was a rabbit being eaten alive by a pack of rabid coyotes, my buddy trying to convince me that we heard a ghost, deer stamping and defending territory, menacing bear grunts, and what I will officially go on record as saying MUST have been a band of 20 raccoons being tortured  by god knows what...I'd put my money on a soon to be discovered swamp creature...or a squatch.  Probably a squatch.
      Beavers are a whole different subject, probably deserving their own book, but I'm always shocked at how many times the same beaver can make my ass pucker in the same night. I don’t care who you are, when a beaver slaps his tail 10 feet from you in the pitch black, you’re ducking for cover and imagining the worst. The way my heart races can’t be healthy and I’ve since concluded that this is the way I’ll eventually meet my end...heart attack set off by a beaver’s displeasure that I was infringing on his space.

       It’s amazing how focused you can become fishing in the dark. About an hour or so in, you start to forget what you’re doing.  Your body knows only the familiar motions, temporarily on auto pilot. Some nights it is so dark you begin to wonder if the night will just swallow you, or if the profound depths of the water will do it first.  Eventually you have to take a short break so you can remember where you are. You can really become disoriented in no time at all.  (It's normally at times like that you hook a fish and subsequently lose it because your line is caught around your chest pack, wrist, fighting butt, or a surprising number of other options.)

Sometimes, you start to question your normal people find themselves standing in the middle of a river at 2 am throwing fur and foam at the riverbank?  I don’t think the answer to that question is yes.


Thursday, August 7

Neutered retirement plans

the Buck Tooth Mouse
The buck tooth mouse, waiting for a shot at some toothy critters.  In case you were wondering, no it’s not a real pattern.  At least not in the sense that you could google it and it’d return any results...although I haven’t tried.  I just like the way the downward facing ears push water.  I thought about calling it the tit mouse, or the sagging tit mouse, but decided the world wasn’t ready. 

 I’m always trying to come up with some revolutionary pattern.  Mostly in the hope that it will bring the leviathan up from his holding spot but, vainly, also because somewhere in the back of my selfish mind I imagine it becoming the next big thing.  The next woolly bugger, Adams, royal coachman, muddler minnow.  The pattern my grand kids can’t leave home without...the pattern I’m flown around the world to talk about, getting to experience amazing rivers I could have only ever dreamed or read about before.  A pattern that I would have to give classes on so you could learn to tie it.  Of course, ordinary rabbit zonkers would not do. Nope. It would have to be tip died, only sold from one company, and most importantly, only the bottom quarter section of a female rabbit killed in late August in the cedar swamps of the Eastern end up the Upper Peninsula. No, not the cedar swamp you're thinking. A different one.  What’s that?  Your local fly shop doesn’t sell that? Rest assured, you can order it from my website for a small up big deal.  But good luck catching any fish if you try to use generically zonked rabbit! Don't even get me started on the's flown in on a charter plane from the south of France and driven to my personal residence via armored car. I know what you're thinking...what about Hobby Lobby? Ha, don't make me laugh!

Anyhow, these buck tooth mice won’t get wet for at least a week.  At least that’s what the urologist says.  I’m going in to get neutered tomorrow morning.  Taking the plunge, getting it done. I have no idea what to expect. I think I've talked to too many people who've got it done. Some say they're fine within a few days, others say not to buy that shit, I'm looking at 2 weeks and will be carrying around 2 softballs in my boxers. Either way, it’s a weird feeling volunteering for something like this. I don't think I will feel emasculated (I had to use a dictionary for that one) in any way, but just knowing that I’ll never have anymore kids. I think I'll write more on that later. For now, I need to prepare the boys for an adventure neither one of us is likely to forget any time soon.

Tight Lines!

edit 1: make sure the doctor performing the surgery has ensured you are completely numb  
before he starts cutting! I didn't know I could scream that loud.

edit 2: the buck tooth mouse caught a fish!

Wednesday, August 6

Catch and Release Me From Your Ignorance...the obligatory rant.

Does anyone else feel like they're trying to explain calculus to a tadpole when trying to clarify why they release their fish?  I've tried the flower analogy (if you pick a flower, it ceases to be what you loved). I've tried explaining that “trout are sensitive creatures and we’re not exactly kind to the environment and I’d like it if there were still trout for my kids and grand kids to appreciate”.  I've tried just saying that it is a way to get out of the house and experience nature.  I think I've tried everything, and the best response I can get is a blank stare, maybe a smug laugh.     

I wonder what they'd think if they saw me nursing the fish back into the water, talking to it, cradling it so as not to squeeze too hard, and not letting go until I'm absolutely sure it's going to swim away... just as healthy as when it was fooled by my fly and we were both just as startled to our sudden connection, me graced by the fish's presence, him fighting for dear life.

what I would like to say:  “I don’t ask you to explain to me the appeal of spending 20 hours a week watching millionaires chase a ball, throw a ball, shoot a ball, or kick a ball.  Don’t ask me why I bother fishing  if I ‘don’t even keep the fish.’  Enjoy your perfectly maintained lawn and reality shows.”

I digress.  I know that sounded a little bitchy, maybe childish, and I suppose in the grand scheme of things it's not that big of a deal, just a blip on the radar. It's not mandatory that everyone understand as long as I do and as long as someone else out there does.

Tuesday, August 5

Fish Car Dreams and Schemes

Ah, the allure of a fish car.  Ever since I've read Traver characterize his fish car with such purpose, the idea has haunted me.  Everything you would need to escape the world for a week, maybe a month, already packed and ready to go at a moments notice. A dedicated trout hunting companion on four wheels.  Looks aren’t that important,  this ride is all about functionality.  

I recently chased this dream to its apparent inevitable consummation.  At least at this point in my life.  I stood on the precipice of greatness that is ownership of a fish car, and was subsequently knocked off by marriage, kind of.  It was actually going to be a fish Jeep (even better, I know).  I stumbled into the old Jeep Cherokee by accident.  It was at the end of its serviceable life, not fit for carting a family around anymore, floor boards rusted out and body in the process, it would have failed in an accident.  Being the good samaritan that I am, I took it in.  Adopted it when no one else would, saw beauty where others saw only rust, rattles, and rubbish.  It runs like a fish car should and asks for practically nothing, except maybe a little too much gas.  

Every cog was set in place.  Rod rack arranged just so, wader storage, axes, canned food, pop tarts, water, flint and steel, ropes, chains, extra clothes, coats, rain coats, gloves, hats, knives, saw, hammer, nails, more rope, more food, hatchet, shovel, emergency radio?, flashlights blah blah blah.  I won’t even go into detail about the rest of the fishing gear stored within.  

You see, I may have put the cart in front of the horse on this one, it seems I overlooked one small detail.  One catastrophically small detail.  Insurance.  I can be a pretty convincing guy.  I can talk my way in and out of some uncomfortable stuff if need be.  As it turns out, I cannot talk my wife into adding another $70/mo for car insurance on a “hobby” (as my wife calls it) that already costs an “exorbitant” amount of not only money, but time.  She doesn’t even want to hear about how well the canoe fits on top!  Doesn’t want to hear about how the old Cherokees can go through almost anything!  Doesn’t care that it would ultimately save money on car washes, since it would never need one...that’s a real reason, right?  And what about the fact that my regular car would receive less abuse and less miles, so it would “maintain value” longer.  Makes sense to me!  

So there she sits.  The fish Jeep that was only driven to the river once, maybe twice.  The fish Jeep that never was, serving out her days on short trips to work or to town.  We would have made a good team, her and I.  I wonder what her name would have been?  Something special no doubt.  

God damned car insurance.  

Monday, August 4

just about right

I like a fire that you can get close to....a little more than arms length.  Not made up of a bunch of sticks but more like 2 logs, still flaming, but barely.  Once a roaring blaze but now reduced to almost 80% coals.  One that can be left to burn all night while I sleep in the tent but still able to be rekindled in the morning with a little newspaper and sticks to make coffee.  If I started the night with a long stick to poke the coals that is now reduced to about 2 feet long, perfect.  If I’m camped on the bank of a river that holds trout...well fuck...what more could I wish for?

Is there old country on the radio...I don't mean ancient, but maybe some late 80's through 90's?  Or maybe some good classic rock?  Skynyrd, Stones, Seger, Petty...Creedence Clear Water Revival...or Revisited...whatever the hell it is now.  Alexi Murdoch?  Two Cellos?  OK, so apparently the music doesn't bloody matter.  Nor does the company really...
 if the kids were there...and by some miracle they were behaving...perfect.  If my wife is there and I haven't started a fight yet...perfect. By myself, a good fishing buddy, my long as I'm not at some state park, face to ass with 1,000 other people "out roughing it", than I guess I'm pretty happy.

Oh yeah, no fire pit or fire ring is a plus too. Certainly not the ones you need a step stool to lean over to get a peak at the flames.

Friday, August 1

Never take your kids fishing!

I have two young children, 6 and 4.  A few years back I decided I could start sharing my passion with them.  A deep rooted love of wild rivers, hard to get to lakes brimming with trout, solitude, and innocent fish rising to a dry fly.  My son was up first, he’s the oldest.    

The plans were laid, car packed, and we were off.  I had settled on the place long before...a lake with brook trout about an hour’s drive from our house (a long time for a kid to be in the car when it’s already past his bedtime).  Finally, upon arriving, he burst from the jeep and ran straight up to the lake in his rain boots and Nope...throwing rocks. After calming him down and putting the rod in his hands (he’d been practicing in the back yard) he made about 3 casts and was done.  Despite my "patient" urging, he couldn't have cared less about the rising fish near the bank.  These were freely rising brook trout, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Do you not realize the gravity of this experience? ungrateful little…. A glance at the brookies I was catching and he was off again, running along the shore.  Long story short, we spent the rest of the night splashing in the water, throwing sticks and rocks, and talking about star wars (his passion at the time.)  

I don’t think I've stumbled upon any ancient wisdom here, but I did learn a few things.  First and foremost, my kids are not going to appreciate the serenity of the situation.  As much as I may have tried to impress it upon him, he’s a KID!  Also...and this is a really important one...they don’t really want to fish, at least not in the conventional sense.  They want to have an experience, and fortunately I was able to realize this fairly early in their lives after the initial butt hurt subsided.  

We don’t really go “fishing” together anymore.  We go for adventures that involve the following:

1)  a river or lake, as serene as possible (for me) but this is no longer mandatory...must be within a reasonable distance from the house

2)  a fishing pole or rod of ANY kind

3)  a trip to the store to pick out any snack they want, and a drink of their choice (this is the most exciting part for them)  Don’t tell mommy.  

4)  about 15 minutes of actual casting and fishing

5)  acceptance that we may not even end up fishing

6)  mumford and sons on the drive there...substitute any truly good music

7)  long talks about nothing and everything

8)  no expectations whatsoever...difficult, but possible

9) the occasional fish caught, almost never trout. (this was a hard one for me)  yes  bass are fish too, yes they’re fun to catch.  Yes pan fish can be fun too…but, but, they’re not trout!

The thing is, my hope is that they grow up and inherit my love of the outdoors, of rivers, solitude, contemplating life on a trout stream, trout, all fish...all the things fly fishing encompasses, but there’s a good chance they may not and that’s OK too.  But if they don’t, I want to be damned sure it wasn't because I tried to shove it down their throat.  

If by chance we meet on the river someday, and I’m standing with one or both of my kids, you can bet that this dad’s heart is bursting through my worn out waders with elation.  But...if it’s just me standing there, contemplating this evening’s rise or stalking a fish, they’re there the forefront of my mind, bursting with pride as they pursue their dreams somewhere else.  

 (Just hopefully not on a tournament bass boat)